Heat Wave Opens Cooling Centers, Fire Hydrants

Another hot and muggy day is forecast for much of the country again on Friday, as the dangerous heat wave moves to the East. Thirty-two states issued excessive heat warnings Thursday. Air conditioning companies have been getting more service calls than they can handle.

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Mary Louise Kelly.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And I'm Steve Inskeep.

The heat wave that's been broiling the middle of the country is slowly taking its misery eastward. Yesterday, more than 30 states had excessive heat warnings. Another sizzling day is forecast again today. One hundred degree weather will reach from the Plains to the Great Lakes and into New England. NPR's David Schaper takes the temperature in Chicago.���

DAVID SCHAPER: During the hottest part of another 100-degree day, Chicago's Lake Michigan beaches are not crowded at all. For many here it's simply too hot to be out. And way too hot to walk across the scalding sand under the blistering sun. For those who do dare to go out...�

Mr. BRETT VANDERVALL: It's unbearable right now.�Unbearable.

SCHAPER: Brett Vandervall is just sitting in lake water that's not even a foot deep, looking as though he really can't move.

Mr. VANDERVALL: I was just out for a run right now and could barely handle it, so I'm just kind of cooling off. Chilling.

SCHAPER: How's the water?

Mr. VANDERVALL: Feels great. Feels great.�Actually, almost too warm.

SCHAPER: Vandervall is in Chicago on business and says it feels just as hot here as in his home town of Kansas City, another city baking near or above 100 degrees.

(Soundbite of phone ringing)

Unidentified Woman Good morning. This is All Temp. How can I help you?

SCHAPER: At the offices of All Temp Heating and Air Conditioning in Chicago, service dispatcher Shawn Partika calls it...

Mr. SHAWN PARTIKA (Dispatcher): Chaotic. Phones ringing constantly. This morning, for instance, when I got here at 7:30, we already had a hundred service calls on the board prior to us even turning our phones over and speaking to any customers.

SCHAPER: In Detroit, residents opened fire hydrants to stay cool, while summer school classes will be cancelled again today in schools that don't have air conditioning.

For those whose homes don't have air conditioning, public buildings are remaining open as cooling centers in Detroit, Cleveland, and many other cities from the Great Plains to the East Coast.

Joe Bruno is New York City's emergency management commissioner.

Mr. JOE BRUNO (Emergency Management Commissioner, New York City): We have 500 cooling centers open across the five boroughs. With the extreme heat expected to last through the weekend, we plan to keep the cooling centers open through at least Saturday.

SCHAPER: Health care and social service workers in many cities are conducting well-being checks on older people and those with chronic health problems. New York's health commissioner, Dr. Tom Farley, says the intense heat should not be taken lightly.

Dr. TOM FARLEY (Health Commissioner, New York City): In fact, more people die from heat each year than from all other natural disasters combined.

SCHAPER: And while the risk is serious to some, back at the beach in Chicago there are those, such as visitor Katie Wendt, who seem unfazed by this northern city's high heat and humidity.

Ms. KATIE WENDT: I'd say this is nothing new.

SCHAPER: Nothing new at all?

Ms. WENDT: Nope. Feels about the same.

SCHAPER: That is, it feels the same to Wendt as the city she's here from - New Orleans.

David Schaper, NPR News, Chicago.

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