Extreme heat persists in U.S. but relief arriving Monday

Sat Jul 7, 2012 6:01pm EDT

1 of 3. A tourist uses a patriotic umbrella to fight the punishing heat gripping the nation's capital at the National World War II Memorial in Washington July 6, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Larry Downing

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(Reuters) - Another day of scorching temperatures blanketed the United States from Iowa to the East Coast on Saturday, but forecasters said some of the areas hit hardest by the prolonged heat wave would soon get relief.

The National Weather Service issued excessive heat warnings for cities including Washington, where temperatures reached 103 Fahrenheit (39 Celsius) by 1 p.m., New York and Philadelphia, where temperatures hovered near or at triple digits.

"It's hotter than hell," said John Ghio, a tourist from St. Louis after visiting the White House. "We're going to get a cold drink, catch the subway and go back to our hotel to cool down."

Nearby, a family from China posed for photos in front of the U.S. Treasury. They were debating whether to go on to the Washington Monument or wait until the sun went down.

"Too hot," said Xiao Duan, 30, of Beijing. "My father says it's like we're being burned by flames."

A cold front from Canada was expected to move south and break the record-setting heat and drop temperatures to below average levels over much of the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic states by Monday, the weather service said.

Severe weather, including thunderstorms and damaging winds, was likely to accompany the cooler temperatures, forecasters said.

Areas around Midwestern cities Minneapolis, Chicago, Detroit and St. Louis will start to experience less extreme heat this weekend, said Alex Sosnowski, senior meteorologist for AccuWeather.com.

But Sosnowski said Saturday would likely be the worst day of the heat for people in the East and the central Appalachians.

"As the cooler air from the northwest begins to make its move, the air will get compressed in the region," he said on AccuWeather.com. "When air is compressed, it heats up."

The weather service's excessive heat warning stretched from Iowa to Pennsylvania, and from New York state down to southern Virginia, capping a week during which more than 3,500 daily temperature records fell across the country.

The number of deaths attributed to the extreme heat and violent storms during the past week continues to rise.

More than two dozen people have died, including three this week from heat-related illnesses in Ohio, where a late-June storm knocked out power to more than 600,000 people.

Authorities discovered the bodies of two women, one in her late 60s and the other in her mid-80s, and a man in his 70s, in homes without electricity, said Dr. Jeff Lee, deputy coroner in Licking County, Ohio.

"They were all found inside homes that were closed up and not ventilated," Lee said on Saturday. "The extra heat along with the cardiovascular and pulmonary problems (they suffered from) caused their deaths."

Approximately 62,000 AEP Ohio customers remained without power on Saturday morning in that state, where the temperature was expected to pass the 100-degree mark.

In West Virginia, where some people have been without power since violent storms hit a week ago, Appalachian Power said nearly 80,000 customers still had no electricity. MonPower reported about 42,000 outages in the state as of Saturday evening.

(Reporting by Colleen Jenkins; Additional reporting by Kim Palmer; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Philip Barbara)

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