The mercury climbed into the 90s across half the country Wednesday in a record-breaking blast of August-like heat, forcing schools with no air conditioning to let kids go home early and cities to open cooling centers.
Temperatures in the 90s were recorded across much of the South, the East and the Midwest. Baltimore and Washington hit 99 degrees, breaking high-temperature records for the date that were set in 1999, according to the National Weather Service. The normal high for the date is about 82.
Philadelphia hit 97 degrees, breaking a 2008 record of 95, and Atlantic City, N.J., tied a record of 98 set in 1999. Chicago reached 94 by midafternoon.
Forecasters said it felt even hotter because of the high humidity. The ridge of high pressure that brought the broiling weather is expected to remain parked over the region through today.
In Oklahoma, where temperatures have reached 104 four times so far this month, paramedics responded to more heat-related illnesses.
Cooling centers were opened in cities such as Chicago, Memphis and Newark, N.J., as a refuge for those without air conditioning.
City officials in Norfolk, Va., teamed up with nonprofit groups to deliver cold water and sunscreen to the homeless.
The deaths of five elderly people in Tennessee, Maryland and Wisconsin have been blamed on the heat in recent days.
And this could be just the beginning.
The 6-to-10-day outlook from the federal Climate Prediction Center calls for continued above-average readings centered on the mid South, including Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, and extending as far as the Great Lakes and New York and New Jersey.
Harvey Milliman, 84, of Manchester, N.J., had a plan to beat the heat. "I'm staying in my house. I'm going to watch TV and have a cold beer," he said. "You got a better idea than that, I'd love to hear it."