Massive heat wave blamed for at least 6 deaths

Published: July 20, 2019 3:46 PM EDT
People enjoy the day playing in a water fountain as the Empire State Building is seen from Williamsburg section of Brooklyn on Saturday, July 20, 2019 in New York. Americans from Texas to Maine sweated out a steamy Saturday as a heat wave spurred cancelations of events from festivals to horse races and the nation’s biggest city ordered steps to save power to stave off potential problems. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)

Heat wave fast facts

  • Up to 200 million people could be affected from the central U.S. to the East Coast.
  • At least six deaths were blamed on the excessive heat: 4 people died in Maryland, while one died in Arizona and another died in Arkansas.
  • Several events were canceled in New York City, including OZY Fest and the NYC Triathlon.

A dangerous and deadly heat wave is gripping nearly more than half of the U.S. Tens of millions are set to broil in record-setting high temperatures this weekend, with heat advisories or warnings in effect from the Midwest to much of the East Coast. The heatwave is already blamed for at six least deaths.

Temperatures are expected to range from the mid 90’s to the triple digits, with the heat index making it feel as hot as 100 to 115 degrees.

NYC monitoring situation at city’s largest jail

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted Saturday that the city’s Department of Corrections Commissioner Cynthia Braun is monitoring the situation at Rikers Island, the city’s largest jail. “Summer clothes have been distributed, clinics are open 24/7, and medical personnel are on site for emergencies,” de Blasio wrote.

In a follow-up, de Blasio tweeted that for the units without air conditioning, the DOC “has fans, ice, water, and access to multiple cool showers.”

The average daily jail population at Rikers is over 9,000 people. The jail is located on an island between the Bronx and Queens, and is accessible by bus from Queens.

In 2014, an inmate died in a cell that had overheated to over 100 degrees in February. A city official told the Associated Press the inmate “basically baked to death” when he was left unchecked for at least four hours as malfunctioning equipment caused his cell to overheat.

Severe storms threaten Minnesota

After heat indexes in parts of Minnesota made temperatures feel as hot as 116 degrees, the area is under a severe thunderstorm and flash flood warning on Saturday.

A compact cluster of thunderstorms are tracking due east across central Minnesota from late Saturday morning through the afternoon, CBS Minnesota reported. This line of storms could pack near-hurricane-force winds.

Southeastern Minnesota is under a Flash Flood Alert until 7 p.m.

CBS Minnesota meteorologist Mike Augustyniak said these aren’t your average severe thunderstorm warnings. The atmosphere is charged up in southern Minnesota even more so than Friday, and residents in the warning areas should treat these advisories as if they are tornado warnings due to the potential of damaging winds.

Police ask residents to hold off on crime until heat wave is over

Police in Braintree, Massachusetts, are asking residents “to hold off” all criminal activity until the extreme heat is over.

“Folks. Due to the extreme heat, we are asking anyone thinking of doing criminal activity to hold off until Monday,” the department wrote in a Facebook post. “It is straight up hot as soccer balls out there. Conducting criminal activity, in this extreme heat is next level henchmen status, and also very dangerous.”

The high in Braintree is expected to reach 95 degrees, with a real feel of 106 degrees.

“Stay home, blast the AC, binge ‘Stranger Things’ Season 3, play with the face app, practice karate in your basement We will all meet again on Monday when it’s cooler.”

​”Heat emergency plan” activated in D.C.

Washington, D.C., joined dozens of cities in declaring a weather-related emergency ahead of record-breaking temperatures expected throughout the weekend.

Dr. Christopher Rodriguez, the district’s director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, said officials will be monitoring the dangerous temperatures from an operations center.

“This is going to be one of the most severe heat events that we’ve had in the last several years,” Rodriguez said.

While midwestern cities like Milwaukee and Chicago will be affected, the East Coast is expected to take the brunt of it. Temperatures are expected to range from the mid 90’s to the triple digits, with the heat index making it feel as hot as 100 to 115 degrees.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warned the heat can be a silent killer. Doctors are warning to watch out for signs of heat illness. Symptoms can include headache, muscle cramps, nausea. another sign is a lack of sweating.

— Natalie Brand reports from Washington.

​Hospital demonstrates threat of children in hot cars

Twenty-one children have died so far this year after being left in hot cars — a risk that rises when the temperature rises. Chicago’s Lurie Children’s Hospital demonstrated how hot a car can get. The temperature rose from 96 degrees to 124 in half an hour.

The soaring heat is especially dangerous for outdoor workers. To keep Chicago cool, the city has installed hundreds of green alleys, made with materials that absorb less heat than black asphalt. New York City also has a program that paints roofs white to reflect the sun.

Boston expected to hit 100 degrees

The hot temperatures extended north to New England, where temperatures are expected to hit 100 degrees in Boston. The city has only had temperatures over 100 25 times in the nearly 150 years of record keeping in Boston, about once every six years on average, CBS Boston reported.

The record temperature for July 20 is 99 degrees.

The National Weather Service has issued an “excessive heat warning” for most of southern New England on Saturday, expecting heat indexes near 110. Nantucket was the only area not under the warning.

— Adriana Diaz

More triple-digit heat indexes on the way

A new study from the Union of Concerned Scientists that found by 2050, the number of days where the heat index hits 105 will triple. By the start of the next century, Boston could have the same number of extreme heat days as Columbia, South Carolina does now.

While heat waves may become more frequent and more extreme due to climate change, it’s not possible to say whether this particular heat wave is the result of climate change.

— Jeff Berardelli reports from New York.

OZY Fest canceled in NYC

Central Park festival OZY Fest has been canceled due to the heat wave, New York City officials said Friday.

“In the case of OZY Fest, we do have in our contract for either rain events or extreme heat events. We do have the right of exercising cancellation if the heat index exceeds 105 [degrees],” NYC Park Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver said in a statement Friday. “We determined for both days, as we got updated information, that was going to be the case.”

The festival advertised John Legend, Trevor Noah, Miguel, Tove Lo, Alex Rodriguez, Megan Rapinoe, Rachael Ray, Padma Lakshmi, Spike Lee and 2020 Democratic hopeful Beto O’Rourke as guests.

Ex-NFL player dies of heat stroke

Mitch Petrus in 2012. Credit: MICHAEL CONROY / AP.

Former New York Giants offensive lineman Mitch Petrus has died in Arkansas of apparent heat stroke, officials said. He was 32.

According to Pulaski County Coroner Gerone Hobbs, Petrus died Thursday night at a North Little Rock hospital. He says Petrus had worked outside all day at his family shop, and that his cause of death is listed as heat stroke.

Petrus was a University of Arkansas walk-on who played alongside Razorback greats Darren McFadden and Felix Jones and later earned all-Southeastern Conference honors. He was drafted by the Giants in the fifth round in 2010 and had a three-year NFL career, winning a Super Bowl with New York in his second season.

NYC beaches and pools to stay open late

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the city’s beaches and pools will stay open later than usual. Olympic-size pools and intermediate-sized outdoor pools will be open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Beaches will be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

As part of the mayor’s executive order, all office buildings 100 feet and taller must set their thermostats to 78 degrees to conserve energy until Sunday night. At a press conference on Friday, de Blasio said this was the first time this has been done.

The city’s cooling centers will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and in some cases, there will be extended hours, de Blasio said.

The New York City Public Library announced it will open decided to open five additional branches in the Bronx, Manhattan and Staten Island on Sunday, July 21.

Biscuit baked in car in Nebraska

It’s so hot in Nebraska the National Weather Service basked biscuits using only the sun. Credit: NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE OMAHA.

The National Weather Service in Omaha, Nebraska, baked biscuits in a parked car using only the heat of the sun. The agency put four biscuits on a baking sheet, then left them on the dashboard of a parked car in the sun to begin its experiment.

Over the course of the next eight hours, the weather service shared updates on how the biscuits were doing.

After about 45 minutes, the biscuits began to rise, and after an hour, the pan temperature reached 175 degrees. “This is a good time to remind everyone that your car does in fact get deadly hot,” the agency tweeted. “Look before you lock! On average, 38 children die in hot cars each year. Don’t be a statistic!”

At the five-hour mark, the agency reported the top of the biscuits were baked, and even the temperature in the shady part of the car had reached 144 degrees.

“And after nearly 8 hours in the sun, the outside of the biscuit is actually edible,” the agency wrote in its final update. “The middle is still pretty doughy though. The max temp on the pan was 185!”

— Sophie Lewis