NEW YORK: From South Dakota to Massachusetts, temperatures surged to potentially dangerous levels Wednesday as the largest heat wave of the summer stretched out and stagnated, with relief in many parts of the country still days away.
Humid air just made it all feel worse, with the heat index in Akron and many other places expected to climb beyond 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Parts of 19 states were under weather advisories, with more in store for today.
The National Weather Service issued a heat advisory for Northeast Ohio from 1 to 8 p.m. today; the steamy weather could linger through Friday.
The region also remains under an ozone alert today. The warning for unhealthy air affects Summit, Portage, Medina, Cuyahoga, Lake, Lorain, Geauga and Ashtabula counties.
Ozone is formed when hydrocarbons combine with nitrogen oxides in direct sunlight. The pollutants come from industry, vehicles and coal-burning power plants.
It can cause breathing problems for children, the elderly and asthmatics. Those groups may want to curtail strenuous outdoor activity.
In New York City, where it was 95 degrees, sidewalk food vendor Ahmad Qayumi said that by 11 a.m., the cramped space inside his steel-walled cart got so hot, he had to turn off his grill and coffee machine.
“It was just too hot. I couldn’t breathe,” he said, turning away a customer who asked for a hamburger. “Just cold drinks,” he said.
It was hot enough to buckle highway pavement in several states. Firefighters in Indianapolis evacuated 300 people from a senior living community after a power outage knocked out the air conditioning. The state of Illinois opened cooling centers. The Environmental Protection Agency said the heat was contributing to air pollution in New England.
Firefighters in southern California faced brutally hot — but dangerously dry — conditions as they battled a wildfire outside Palm Springs. Temperatures could go as high as 105 and humidity could go as low as 1 percent, said Tina Rose, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
The fire has already consumed seven homes.
At the World Trade Center reconstruction site in New York City, workers building a rail hub dripped under their hard hats, thick gloves and heavy-duty boots. Some wore towels around their necks to wipe away the sweat.
“We’re drinking a lot of water, down under by the tracks, in and out of the sun all day — very hot,” said carpenter Elizabeth Fontanez, of the Bronx, who labored with 20 pounds of tools and safety equipment strapped to her waist. Since the heat wave began, she said she has been changing shirts several times during her shifts.
Officials blamed hot weather for at least one death.
A 78-year-old Alzheimer’s patient died of heat exhaustion after wandering away from his northern Kentucky home Tuesday in temperatures that rose to 93 degrees.
Limited relief, in the form of a cold front, was expected to begin dropping south from Canada starting Thursday, before sweeping through the Midwest and into the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions by Saturday.
That will bring lower temperatures, but also possibly severe thunderstorms, said weather service spokesman Christopher Vaccaro.
New Mexico and parts of Texas turned out to be rare outposts of cool air Wednesday — but not without trouble of their own: heavy rains prompted flood watches and warnings in some areas. More than five inches of rain fell in 24 hours in Plainview, north of Lubbock, according to the National Weather Service.