Nearly 2 In 3 Americans Are Dealing With Dangerous Heat Waves

Aug 12, 2021
Originally published on August 12, 2021 8:43 am

Updated August 12, 2021 at 12:43 PM ET

Some 195 million Americans — out of a population of more than 330 million — are facing dangerously high temperatures, as much of the mainland U.S. is under excessive heat advisories beginning Thursday and expected to last until the weekend.

Before relief arrives, temperatures are rise to levels that feel hotter than 100 degrees Fahrenheit, warns the National Weather Service.

Just last month, a heat wave around the Portland, Ore., area and in Canada was blamed for the death of hundreds of people. This time around the oppressive heat will not only exacerbate drought conditions and wildfires on the West Coast, but will make for dangerous conditions on the East Coast.

The National Weather Service predicts the I-95 corridor in the East could reach 100 degrees Thursday afternoon. Oppressive heat indices, a measure of how hot it really feels outside, is expected to range between 105-110 degrees Fahrenheit.

Dew points, a measure of the amount of moisture in the air, could reach as high as 80 in the Boston area. That's a number that is "basically record territory" for New England, according to WBUR, Boston's NPR News Station. Some parts of Massachusetts could reach a heat index of 110.

Several states have opened cooling centers for residents to stay safe in the heat.

In the Pacific Northwest, temperatures could hit 105 degrees Fahrenheit on Thursday, according to earlier predictions by the National Weather Service in Portland, Ore. Just over a month ago temperatures skyrocketed to a record 116 degrees Fahrenheit.

By Friday, the "worst-case scenario" has the region reaching as high as 111 degrees Fahrenheit in some parts of western Oregon before finally cooling down over the weekend, according to the National Weather Service in Portland.

This all comes just days after climate scientists released a major report examining how fast the climate is warming, showing heat waves, extreme rain and intense droughts are on the rise.

The scientists say heat waves are more frequent and intense and droughts are getting hotter and drier--events linked to the human influence on the climate.

Intense storms will follow the heat

In the Washington, D.C. area, hot and humid weather earlier this week brought damaging thunderstorms in the late afternoon. High winds downed trees and wires in Virginia, Maryland, and D.C. A bolt of lightning set a Germantown, Maryland apartment complex on fire, displacing at least 25 people.

Beachgoers stand in the water of Dorchester Bay in Boston to cool off on Wednesday.
Steven Senne / AP

Similarly damaging thunderstorms may arrive for the Midwest and elsewhere along the East Coast on Thursday and Friday, the National Weather Service says.

Thunderstorms are expected to form and move across parts of northeast Kansas, northern Missouri and north-central Illinois, the National Weather Service predicts.

The Great Lakes region is most at risk for those severe storms on Thursday, according to the National Weather Service. Damaging winds, hail and even tornados could also occur.

How to stay safe in dangerous heat

Extreme heat is considered the most dangerous type of severe-weather event in the U.S. as our body's ability to cool itself is challenged.

Salem Fire Department Capt. Matt Brozovich, left, and Falck Northwest ambulance personnel help treat a man experiencing heat exposure at a cooling center during a heat wave, in Salem, Ore., in June.
Nathan Howard / AP

Here are some tips to stay cool and safe:

  • It's recommended that people reduce or reschedule strenuous activities until it's cooler.

  • Children, babies, older adults, and others with chronic medical conditions should stay in the coolest place possible, as they are especially vulnerable to heat-related illness or death.
  • Monitor for signs of heat cramps, heat exhaustion or heat stroke and know what to do if you see someone suffering from any of those illnesses

  • Dress in cool, light colored clothing. Drink plenty of water and non-alcoholic drinks even when not feeling thirsty.
  • When using a fan, don't direct the flow of the fans directly toward yourself if the room is hotter than 90 degrees Fahrenheit. The dry air will dehydrate you faster.
  • No AC or fans at home? Head to your area's nearest cooling center or library to keep cool.

Sitting still on the couch and re-upping this March 2020 TV streaming guide could be the safest choice this week.

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