July 24, 2011 / 12:05 AM / in 6 years

East Coast sees slight relief from dangerous heat wave

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The powerful heat and humidity that plagued the eastern half of the United States for days started to fade on Sunday, to the relief of many sweltering residents, forecasters said.

Temperatures in Washington, New York and elsewhere along the East Coast hovered in the 90s, down from the triple-digits on Friday and Saturday.

Records were set on Friday in Newark, N.J. at 108 degrees and in Dulles, Va. at 105 degrees.

At its peak, the heat wave put some 132 million people under a heat alert and was blamed for as many as 34 deaths, according to the National Weather Service.

“The huge area of high pressure at most levels of the atmosphere responsible for the dangerous, record-setting heat in multiple states is backing out of the northeastern U.S. and neighboring Canada,” AccuWeather.com’s senior meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said.

A heat alert remained in effect until evening as well as a Code Orange air quality alert, meaning that air pollution concentrations may be unhealthy for children, elderly people or people in poor health.

Justin Morgan dives for a football as he tries to keep cool in the water at North Avenue Beach in Chicago July 20, 2011. REUTERS/Jim Young

Slightly cooler air from Canada was starting to drift across the Midwest and the Northeast, bringing showers and thunderstorms.

A record 6.86 inches of rain fell in Chicago on Saturday, forcing the cancellation of flights and the closing of parts of some highways and train lines.

Slideshow (13 Images)

The heat was battering Tennesee, where temperatures were in the 90s, with the heat index forecast to reach about 103 degrees in Nashville and 105 degrees in Memphis.

A possibility of storms was forecast for the evening.

No relief was in sight, however, for the southern plains where triple-digit heat will continue to roast states such as Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas, forecasters said.

The heat has exacerbated droughts in Texas and Arkansas.

Reporting by Wendell Marsh, additional reporting by Timothy Ghianni in Nashville; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst

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