DETROIT — When the air conditioner stopped in Ashley Jackson’s Southfield, Mich., home, so too did normal conversations and nightly rest.
“Inside the house it was 91 degrees. … I wasn’t talking to anybody. Nobody was talking to anybody,” said Jackson, 23, who works as a short-order cook in Detroit. “We mostly slept, but it was hard to sleep because of the heat. I probably got about four hours of sleep each night.”
St. Louis, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Chicago and several other Midwest cities already have broken heat records this week or are on the verge of doing so. And with even low temperatures setting record highs, some residents have no means of relief, day or night.
The National Weather Service said the record-breaking heat that has baked the nation’s midsection for several days was slowly moving into the mid-Atlantic states and Northeast. Excessive-heat warnings remained in place Friday for all of Iowa, Indiana and Illinois as well as much of Wisconsin, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio and Kentucky.
St. Louis hit a record high of 105 on Wednesday and a record low of 83. In Wisconsin, the coolest Milwaukee and Madison got was 81 in the early morning, beating previous low records by 2 and 4 degrees respectively. Temperatures didn’t fall below 79 in Chicago, 78 in Grand Rapids, Mich., and 75 in Indianapolis.
“When a day starts out that warm, it doesn’t take as much time to reach high temperatures in the low 100s,” said Marcia Cronce, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. “You know it’ll be a warm day when you start out at 80 degrees.”
In Chicago on Thursday, the Shedd Aquarium lost power as temperatures soared to 103 degrees, a record for July 5. Officials said emergency generators immediately kicked in and the outage never threatened any of animals, but several hundred visitors were sent back out into the heat.
Not even the setting of the sun brought respite as temperatures hovered around 90 degrees downtown at 10 p.m. Some visitors made their way to Millennium Park to splash in the park’s kid-friendly Crown Fountain.
“It’s hotter here than it is in Arizona,” said Mary Dominis, of Tempe, who brought her daughter along to play in the water. “I came here to visit my family and to get away from the heat of Arizona.”
Ruben Davila, 32, of Northern California, was also in Chicago visiting family, and at the park seeking some cool relief.
“The heat has made it difficult to walk around and view the sites,” said Davila, who was accompanied by his wife and three children.
The heat has been much worse than a mere inconvenience for some. St. Louis officials have reported three heat-related deaths in recent days, and officials in the Chicago area said two people there may have died due to heat Wednesday. A coroner in Rock County, Wis., said the death of an 83-year-old woman there was definitely due to the heat.
It was hot enough to buckle a roadway Wednesday afternoon in Chicago, where Columbus Drive cracked and bulged, forcing the city to close the road for repairs.
And with the National Weather Service’s excessive heat warning for the city extended through Friday evening, Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard canceled all summer school classes for the day.
But relief is on the way. The weather service forecast that cooler temperatures and scattered showers could bring some relief across the Upper Midwest going into the weekend, but warned of strong to severe storms in the area.
Meanwhile, many cities have tried to help by opening cooling centers and extending the hours for their public pools. Compounding the high heat in Michigan was damage wrought by storms. About 157,000 homes and businesses across the state were without power early Friday.
Lack of electricity also is likely to compound the misery for many in the storm-ravaged East as the dangerous temperatures move in. Outages reported late Thursday included nearly 230,000 in West Virginia. More than 71,000 were without power Friday morning in Virginia.
Maryland, which still had more than 45,000 without power, also reported Thursday that eight people had died of heat-related causes in recent days.
The heat has also taken a toll on agriculture.
Dean Hines, the owner of Hines Ranch Inc. in the western Wisconsin town of Ellsworth, said he found one of his 80 dairy cows dead Thursday, an apparent victim of the heat. He said he was worried about the rest of his herd, in terms of death toll, reproductive consequences and milk production.
“We’re using fans and misters to keep them cool,” he said. “It’s been terrible. When it doesn’t cool down at night, the poor animals don’t have a chance to cool down.”