Lifestyle & Belief

Scorching heat grips half of U.S., with severe drought conditions in parts of the country


A heat advisory is in effect for 23 states across the South, Midwest and East Coast of the United States, including the capital, Washington, D.C.


Mark Wilson

A brutal heat wave is blasting half the United States, including much of the South, the Midwest and the East Coast, setting record temperatures and adding to already serious drought conditions in parts of the country.

Heat advisories and warnings are in effect by the National Weather Service for 23 states, according to CNN, including Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

The extreme heat could continue throughout the week and perhaps longer, according to msnbc. The problem, meteorologists say, is a high-pressure pattern that has stayed stuck over much of the middle of the country, blocking an influx of cooler air from the north, the New York Times said.

A continuing drought in 14 states in the south and southwest of the country is also to blame. Corn and cotton crops have been hit hard in Georgia, ranchers in Arizona are in the position of having to sell off cattle because they're unable to feed them, Texas is facing a potential loss of 30 percent of its wheat fields, and Oklahoma has had only 28 percent of its normal summer rainfall, according to the New York Times. The drought, combined with the serious economic problems facing the U.S., could be one of the worst in the country's history and is likely to cause debilitating losses and have a heavy cultural impact.

The heat wave has killed tens of thousands of turkeys and chickens in Kansas and North Carolina as it swept across the country, and farmers are struggling to cool off their flocks, according to Associated Press. Four of the nation's top turkey-producing states — Arkansas, Missouri, North Carolina and Virginia — were under a heat advisory on Tuesday.

In Oklahoma, the first heat alert was issued on June 17, according to Reuters, and in Oklahoma City, the temperatures were nearing 100 degrees for the 14th day in a row. A number of records have been broken during this heat wave, according to CNN: 

Wichita, Kansas, hit 111 degrees Sunday. The National Weather Service says temperatures of 111 degrees have occurred there only 10 times since July 1888.

Also on Sunday, the temperature in tornado-ravaged Joplin, Missouri, hit 106 degrees, and in Springfield, Missouri, it topped 102 degrees. Both these temperatures bested high-temperature records set in the 1980s.

Oklahoma City hit a record high of 108 degrees Thursday, the same day that Tulsa hit a record high of 104 degrees.

Reuters reported that the East Coast was sweltering too:

Newark, New Jersey temperatures hovered at 99 degrees, Islip, New York at 93 degrees, and the mercury hit 97 degrees at John F. Kennedy airport in New York. According to the weather service these are record highs for July 12.

The East Coast, though, is expected to see some relief sooner rather than later. The center and south of the country have been sweltering for days, and those conditions could continue throughout the week.

In addition to the stifling heat, thunderstorms were forecast, with the possibility of severe winds and hail, from southern Nebraska to northern Kansas to parts of the mid-Atlantic from Southern Virginia to North Carolina.

On Monday, Chicago, also a victim of the high-pressure system that is causing the serious heat conditions, was hit by a massive storm that swept through with 75-mile-per-hour winds, downing trees and leaving more than 800,000 with power outages, according to msnbc. By Tuesday, crews had gotten power back to more than half those affected, but 300,000 people were still waiting for their power to be restored, Reuters said.