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D.C. will be as hot as Death Valley as record-breaking heat wave scorches most of the US

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As the temperatures start to heat up, make sure you are staying safe.
USA TODAY

A brutal midsummer heat wave has spread across the eastern two-thirds of the nation, bringing sweltering temperatures to some 195 million Americans from New Mexico to Maine. 

Temperatures around 100 degrees are possible in Washington, D.C, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York City, Boston, Chicago, and St. Louis, AccuWeather said. For a while on Saturday, it will feel about as hot in Washington, D.C., as it is in Death Valley, California, according to AccuWeather. 

Dozens of record hot temperatures are likely, the National Weather Service said, as the heat index is forecast to surge past 100 degrees and approach the 110s in many areas. The heat index, also known as the apparent temperature, is what the temperature feels like to the human body when relative humidity is combined with the air temperature. 

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are the primary health issues emergency rooms could see. Both can occur after temperatures hit 80 degrees or the humidity rises above 75 percent, according to Eskenazi Health in Indianapolis.

Heat stroke can lead to permanent brain damage and death if not treated promptly, said Dr. Tyler Stepsis, medical director of the Michael Susan Smith Emergency Department at Eskenazi Health.

“Spending too much time in high temperatures and elevated humidity conditions, along with dehydration, may create an extremely dangerous situation where the core body temperature exceeds 104 degrees Fahrenheit,” Stepsis said.

Those without air conditioning, elderly, small children, and pets are especially susceptible, the weather service said. 

At least one death has been blamed on the heat: Former New York Giants offensive lineman Mitch Petrus, 32, died of heat stroke Thursday night at a North Little Rock hospital after working outside that day at his family’s shop about 25 miles east of Little Rock.

Nights will also provide little relief: According to AccuWeather, temperatures in many of the big cities may struggle to drop below 80 degrees at night, which then allows the heat to build at an even faster pace the next day. Nighttime humidity levels can be significantly higher than the afternoon as a result.

At those levels, nighttime provides little relief for people that may not have additional or adequate cooling resources and the body has to work harder to cool itself, according to University of Georgia meteorologist Marshall Shepherd.

Some good news: The worst of the heat is forecast to ease by early next week, returning temperatures back to more typical July levels in the central and eastern U.S., the weather service said. 

According to the Weather Channel, by Monday and into Tuesday, cooler, drier air will spread across much of the Plains, Midwest and East, dropping temperatures near or even below average for late July. This could mean highs in the low- to mid-80s across those regions, with temperatures dropping into the 60s or lower overnight.

Contributing: The Associated Press

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Mya Jones, left, 12, and her cousin Alexis Carlen, 13, keep cool on a tubes floating around the Endless River at Raging Rivers Waterpark in Grafton, Ill., on Wednesday, July 17, 2019. An excessive heat warning has been issued for St. Louis through Saturday night. David Carson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch via APJaxon Claymore, 8, left, and his older brother Jalen, 9, battle each other with large water guns in the hot mid-day sun in front of their apartment building on Wednesday, July 17, 2019, Bismarck, N.D. The pair say they compete against one another at home and in school to see who is the best in sports from running, throwing and strength. The weather forecast for the area calls for temperatures in the 80s with little chance of rain for the next several days. Mike McCleary, The Bismarck Tribune via AP

  • Julissa Hernandez, left, and Kuna Malik Hamad stay cool while practicing their Brazilian dancing under a fountain on the Georgetown Waterfront in Washington, DC on July 18, 2019. An 'Excessive Heat Watch' has been issued for the Washington, DC area through July 21st by the National Weather Service, with heat index values of up to 110 Fahrenheit. 1 of 20
  • Children cool off in the fountains at the Fred Cook Memorial Splash Park in Longfellow Park, Thursday July 18, 2019 in Murphysboro, Ill. An excessive heat warning for the region continues through Sunday with the heat index around 105 each day. 2 of 20
  • A Galapagos tortoise cools off in a shower of water from a zookeeper at the Oklahoma City Zoo, Thursday, July 18, 2019, in Oklahoma City. The National Weather Service has issued excessive heat warnings from the Southern Plains to Nebraska and as far east to New York State and parts of the East Coast. =3 of 20
  • A roofer works on a new home under construction Thursday, July 18, 2019, in Houston. A heat wave is expected to send temperatures soaring close to 100 degrees through the weekend across much of the country. The National Weather Service estimates that more than 100 heat records will fall on Saturday. Most will not be the scorching daily highs, but for lack of cooling at night, something called nighttime lows. Those lows will be record highs. 4 of 20
  • Mya Jones, left, 12, and her cousin Alexis Carlen, 13, keep cool on a tubes floating around the Endless River at Raging Rivers Waterpark in Grafton, Ill., on Wednesday, July 17, 2019. An excessive heat warning has been issued for St. Louis through Saturday night.5 of 20
  • A truck drives east out of Alton, Ill., over the Clark Bridge as clouds from a severe warned thunderstorm roll in on Wednesday, July 17, 2019. The storm knocked out power to thousands of customers in St. Louis County and St. Charles County. St. Louis is under excessive heat warning until Saturday night.6 of 20
  • Jaxon Claymore, 8, left, and his older brother Jalen, 9, battle each other with large water guns in the hot mid-day sun in front of their apartment building on Wednesday, July 17, 2019, Bismarck, N.D. The pair say they compete against one another at home and in school to see who is the best in sports from running, throwing and strength. The weather forecast for the area calls for temperatures in the 80s with little chance of rain for the next several days. 7 of 20
  • Devin Johnson (right) and James Watson (far left) sell water to tourists on July 17, 2019 near the Washington Monument. Washington DC's heat index values are predicted to reach 105 to 110 Fahrenheit due to temperatures in the mid 90s on July 17, 2019.  The nation's capital faces the hottest weather so far this summer as a heat wave is poised to spread across much of the central and eastern US over the next several days.8 of 20
  • Julian Bortey prepares to hand out water bottles for staff working in the heat for the Apollo 11's moon landing anniversary ceremony on July 17, 2019 near the Washington Monument. It's magic, Bortey said about the wet towel on his head.9 of 20
  • A woman cools off in the fountain at Washington Square Park during a hot afternoon day on July 17, 2019 in New York City. Sweltering heat is moving into the New York City area, with temperatures expected to rise close to 100 degrees by this weekend. The large heat wave will affect close to two thirds of the United States, with the East Coast and Midwest seeing the worst conditions.10 of 20
  • Tyler Secor 10, leaps off the high dive at the Kingston Community Pool to cool off as the temperatures rise Wednesday afternoon, July 17, 2019, in Kingston, Pa. Secor and other campers at the Kingston Recreation plan on spending much of the day keeping cool in the pool.11 of 20
  • A girl runs through the splash pad in Coal St. Park in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. on Tuesday, July 16, 2019.12 of 20
  • Nevaeha, 8, plays in the fountain at Canal Park on July 17, 2019. Washington DC's heat index values are predicted to reach 105 to 110 Fahrenheit due to temperatures in the mid 90s on July 17, 2019.  The nation's capital faces the hottest weather so far this summer as a heat wave is poised to spread across much of the central and eastern US over the next several days. 13 of 20
  • Rose Scott-Wright plays with her dog Cloie on July 17, 2019 at Canal Park. 14 of 20
  • Cincinnati Reds first base coach Delino DeShields wipes his face in the dugout during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Chicago Cubs in Chicago, Wednesday, July 17, 2019. Chicago and much of the surrounding area will be under an excessive heat watch starting Thursday, as temperatures climb into the 90s, coming close to 100 degrees Friday and Saturday, with dangerously high heat indices, the National Weather Service declared Wednesday. 15 of 20
  • Amber Lewis escapes the heat with her kids Claire, 7, and Cameron, 9, at the Joannes Aquatic Center Tuesday, July 16, 2019, in Green Bay, Wis. 16 of 20
  • Reba, an Asian Elephant, is sprayed down with a hose by elephant trainer Monica Uhl at the Phoenix Zoo, July 16, 2019. The Phoenix Zoo hosted a press tour to showcase how the staff keeps their animals cool during the hot summer season. 17 of 20
  • Kiara Schmidt and Maddy Schreiber, right, beat the heat while enjoying a snow cone from Sno-Biz on Tuesday, July 16, 2019, in Kimberly, Wis.18 of 20
  • Poblocki Paving employee Daniel Huaracha takes a moment Monday July 15, 2019 to wipe the sweat away while paving a parking lot in Brown Deer, Wis. The job was just one of many where employees working outside are doing what they can to deal with the high heat and humidity we are experiencing this week. 19 of 20
  • Russ Wilson splashes water on his face from a fountain in New York, Wednesday, July 17, 2019. The heat wave that has been roasting much of the U.S. in recent days is just getting warmed up, with temperatures expected to soar to dangerous levels through the weekend. 20 of 20

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