The Heat Is Online

Intense Heat. Violent Storms Blanket US Midwest and South

Midwest power outages linger after storms


Illinois, Michigan and Indiana are the hardest hit


The Associated Press,  June 20, 2009

CHICAGO - Thousands of utility customers in the Midwest were still without electricity Saturday following waves of thunderstorms.

In northern Illinois, ComEd spokesman Peter Pedraza said 67,000 customers still had no power as a result of the severe weather that struck on Friday.

Consumers Energy in Michigan said about 33,600 of its customers statewide had no power Saturday and Duke Energy in Indiana reported about 13,000 customers blacked out. Indianapolis Power and Light reported nearly 8,000 outages.

Iowa and Wisconsin also had scattered outages.

The storms produced torrential rain. The National Weather Service said parts of northern Illinois may have gotten up to 4 inches of rain Friday and Racine, Wis., had a 24-hour total of nearly 7 inches.

On Friday, flight delays at O'Hare International Airport on Friday were averaging one hour and dozens of flights were canceled.

On Thursday, powerful storms brought heavy rain, strong winds and unleashed several tornadoes, damaging homes and businesses, tossing railcars off their tracks and knocking out power to thousands.

In western Michigan, a teenager died after running into a downed power line while going to help neighbors as a storm swept through Thursday night.

Family members heard a "pop" and saw a flash when the power line fell and believed their neighbors' home might have caught fire.

Christopher, who was about 16, rushed to alert the neighbors, a family that included several young children. With electricity out in the area, he couldn't see clearly and ran into the waist-high line.

In the same county, Kent, a lightning strike set fire to a home, and heavy rain in the region flooded some roads. Consumers Energy Co. reports some 36,500 customers were without power statewide.

Five twisters in one town?

Also Thursday, daylight in southeastern Minnesota revealed a path of destruction left by an apparent tornado in the town of Austin, where vehicles were thrown about, homes were heavily damaged and power lines were knocked down. At least one man suffered minor injuries.

Austin Mayor Tom Stiehm said it appeared up to five twisters had hit Wednesday night. The National Weather Service said one tornado on the north side of town was about 10 miles long and lasted for more than 20 minutes. The weather service said that at its worst point, the twister registered an EF2 on the Enhanced Fujita scale, meaning it generated winds between 111 mph and 135 mph.

"It kind of developed on top of us," Stiehm said. "It just kind of  boom, it was just there and the intensity got real bad."

Mike Schuster, who lives in north Austin, told the Austin Daily Herald that he was on his deck when the tornado came out of nowhere, bowing one side of his house, destroying his shed and flattening his trees.

Central Minnesota also saw storms Thursday evening, complete with hail, lightning and some instances of strong winds. High winds in northwestern Minnesota flipped over a couple of semi-trailer trucks on Interstate 94, the Star Tribune reported. There were no injuries. Tornado watches and thunderstorm warnings were in effect throughout the night as the storm moved across Minnesota.

© 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


Heat wave hitting southern U.S. hard


USA TODAY, June 21, 2009


NEW ORLEANS  A dry, scorching June for much of the South will likely remain this week with high temperatures expected to be as much as 10-15 degrees above average and some areas near or at record highs.


As the first day of summer arrived Sunday, cities across the South and parts of the Midwest were monitoring near-record highs. Tallahassee recorded 103 degrees on Saturday, just one degree shy of that day's record high for Florida's capital, said Mark Ressler, a meteorologist with The Weather Channel.


Record highs are possible for several southern cities this week, including Jacksonville, Orlando, Memphis, Little Rock, Corpus Christi and New Orleans, said Mark Avery, meteorologist at The Weather Channel.


In New Orleans, visits to the Audubon Zoo were down and the visitors who did show up were encouraged to cool down at misting stations and wading pools, said Sarah Burnette, a zoo spokeswoman.

Monkeys were refreshed with frozen sport drinks and leopards received frozen rabbits. Lions and tigers got blood popsicles.


"It's what we expect in the summer at the zoo," Burnette said. "We've been to this rodeo before."


St. Louis is under an "excessive heat warning" through midweek, with temperatures in the upper 90s, or over 105 with the humidity calculated in, Ressler said. "Extensive heat warnings" were in effect for Mobile, Ala., and Pensacola, Fla., he said.


The high-level ridge causing the heat is unique in that it parked itself directly over the southern U.S., not allowing sea moisture or winds to blow in, Ressler said. The ridge has kept out thunderstorms, which typically lower temperatures, and pushed down warm air, creating the hot, dry conditions, he said. The ridge is expected to stay there through at least next week.


"It's still a very hot-air pressure system," Ressler said.


The National Weather Service warned of "exceptional" and "extreme" drought conditions in swaths of southeast Texas. Southern Louisiana was deemed "abnormally dry," though not in a drought situation.

Residents of New Orleans, accustomed to hot weather, were nonetheless experiencing a drier than normal June. The city usually receives nearly 4.5 inches of rain by this time in June, said Christopher Bannan, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Slidell, La.


So far this month, the city's seen .92 inch.


"It's hot and dry and doesn't look like it's going to change for about a week," Bannan said.