Parts of South, Midwest grapple with dangerous heat wave


BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Forecasters are warning about days of scorching, dangerous heat gripping a wide swath of the U.S. South and Midwest, where the heat index today approached 120 degrees in one town and climbed nearly that high in others.

With temperatures about 100 degrees at midday and "feels like" temperatures soaring even higher, parts of 13 states were under heat advisories, from Texas, Louisiana and Florida in the South to Missouri and Illinois in the Midwest, the National Weather Service reported.

"It feels like hell is what it feels like," said Junae Brooks, who runs Junae's Grocery in Holly Bluff, Miss. Around her, many of her customers kept cool with wet rags around their necks or by wearing straw hats.

Some of the most oppressive conditions were in Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi and Oklahoma.

The heat index rose to 119 degrees by late afternoon in West Memphis, Ark.; and to 118 degrees in Clarksdale, Miss., the weather service reported. Similar readings were expected in eastern Oklahoma.

In Alabama, the temperature hit 100 degrees with a heat index of 106 degrees by mid-afternoon in Birmingham, the state's largest city.

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke were the leading threats.

"You are more likely to develop a heat illness quicker in this type of weather, when it's really humid and hot," said Gary Chatelain, a National Weather Service meteorologist based in Shreveport, La., where a wet summer contributed to high humidity.

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