Triple-digit heat wave pumps up power demand, records fall

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Cities simmered with triple-digit temperatures Monday, driving air conditioners to the max and toppling records as a heat wave choked a wide area of the nation.

Thermometers hit 100 degrees in parts of Alabama, Arkansas, Texas, Nebraska, Kansas and the western tip of Tennessee, where Memphis hit 102 by mid-afternoon, the National Weather Service said.

Readings were in the 90s from the western Plains to the Carolinas. Montgomery broke a record Monday with an eighth straight day of 100-plus heat, hitting 101 by early afternoon.

On Sunday, the city's streets steamed at 106. Montgomery had seven-day hot streaks in 1990, 1954 and 1881.

Tuscaloosa and Birmingham also broke records Monday with temperatures edging over 100 for the seventh straight day.

The average high in August in central Alabama is 92. "Ninety-two. Hell, the way things have gone this week, 92 is fall weather," Frank Matthews of Millbrook told the Montgomery Advertiser. Even places that are supposed to be hot are hotter, with a high of 114 Sunday in Phoenix.

It was 106 early Monday afternoon, the weather service said. Monday was the fourth consecutive day of triple-digit highs in Memphis, where it hasn't been this hot since 1954, when Elvis Presley was developing his rock 'n' roll style.

Coincidentally, this is Elvis Week in Memphis, and organizers set up free water and ice stations for fans. "There's not a lot we can do. It's just going to be hot," Graceland spokeswoman Regina Jackson said.

Temperatures in Memphis will likely hit record highs through Thursday, with humidity climbing as the week goes on, said weather service meteorologist Todd Beal.

Since Aug. 3, at least 52 people have gone to hospital emergency rooms in Memphis because of heat-related problems and one person has died, health authorities said. St. Louis officials on Monday blamed the heat wave for the deaths of three elderly residents Thursday and Friday.

One death in Missouri's Jackson County was blamed on the heat, and the heat wave also is believed responsible for three deaths on the Illinois side of the St. Louis area.

Steve Nonn, the coroner in Madison County, Ill., said the deaths illustrate the importance of checking on the welfare of neighbors, especially the vulnerable elderly.

"This is a time of year when it is important to be a busybody, knock on a door and ask, 'Are you OK?"' Noon said.

"It is an act of nosiness that just may save someone's life." The Missouri health department said there have been 870 reported heat-related illnesses this year, nearly all of them over the past two weeks.

St. Louis got a slight break Monday with highs only in the upper 90s, but thousands of customers in the area were sweltering without air conditioners because of power outages caused by a thunderstorm during the night.

For the rest of the week, the weather service forecast a high of 105 on Tuesday in St. Louis, followed by 104 on Wednesday and 100 degrees on Thursday.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)