BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Forecasters are warning about days of scorching, dangerous heat gripping a wide swath of the U.S. South and Midwest, where the heat index on Monday eclipsed 120 degrees in one town and climbed nearly that high in others.
With temperatures around 100 degrees at midday and “feels like” temperatures soaring even higher, parts of 13 states were under heat advisories, from Texas, Louisiana and Florida in the South to Missouri and Illinois in the Midwest, the National Weather Service reported.
“It feels like hell is what it feels like,” said Junae Brooks, who runs Junae’s Grocery in Holly Bluff, Mississippi.
Some of the most oppressive conditions were in Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi and Oklahoma.
The heat index soared to 121 degrees by late afternoon in Clarksdale, Mississippi; and to 119 degrees in West Memphis, Arkansas, the weather service reported. Similar readings were expected in eastern Oklahoma.
In Alabama, the temperature hit 100 degrees with a heat index of 106 degrees by mid-afternoon in Birmingham, the state’s largest city.
More of the same is in store for today.
In the Mississippi Delta, farmers had no choice but to work in the fields Monday as they scrambled to clear debris and make repairs after floodwaters inundated the region in recent months, Brooks said. Farmers are just now able to reach their land.
“The mosquitoes the gnats, the spiders, the snakes – all of them – have been way worse this year,” Brooks said.
In Alabama and Tennessee, high school football coaches were adjusting practice schedules Monday and Tuesday, with some moving the workouts indoors and others conducting training in the early morning or evening.
In northern Alabama, forecasters with the weather service’s Huntsville office said Monday they issued the first “excessive heat warning” for the area in more than seven years. Such a warning is more serious than a heat advisory.
The region hardest-hit by the heat wave could experience many more days each year when the heat index soars as the effects of climate change increase, scientists say.
Historically, cities such as Austin, Texas; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Jackson, Mississippi; and Tallahassee, Florida, experience less than a week’s worth of days each year when the heat index is over 105 degrees.