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Midwest broils as heat wave intensifies; cooling centers set up for residents

A fan at the Berlin Fair in Marne, Mich., provided relief yesterday for Luke McCrory, 5. The intense heat is heading our way. A fan at the Berlin Fair in Marne, Mich., provided relief yesterday for Luke McCrory, 5. The intense heat is heading our way. (Cory Morse/Grand Rapids Press/Associated Press)
Associated Press / July 20, 2011

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CHICAGO - Midwest residents woke yesterday to the whir of fans and air conditioners, the soundtrack to an unusually intense heat wave enveloping most of middle America and slowly spreading eastward.

From Texas to the Dakotas, and east to Illinois and Indiana, temperatures and humidity levels soared on Monday and were expected to remain high through at least the end of the week, by which time forecasters say the East Coast will get to share the misery.

Seventeen states issued heat watches, warnings, or advisories on Monday, when the heat index easily surpassed 100 degrees in many places, including 126 in Newton, Iowa, and 119 in Madison, Minn.

Things were heating up on the East Coast yesterday, and the National Weather Service said temperatures in New Jersey were expected to be in the lower 90s and could reach 100 degrees by the end of the week.

Cooling centers were set up in many cities to offer residents places to escape during the day until the heat abates.

Chicago opened six centers and encouraged residents to go to hundreds of public buildings, including police stations.

Chicago authorities stepped up their high-heat precautions after a 1995 heat wave killed more than 700 people in less than a week. Now temperatures above 90 degrees trigger an emergency plan that includes city workers calling and visiting the frail and elderly.

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