heat feature

JAY HARE/DOTHAN EAGLE

Before Dothan’s heat index reached 107 degrees Tuesday afternoon, a Holland Crane Service employee guides a crane operator as a crew lowers a railroad car onto its side at the Wiregrass Public Safety Center. The rail car will be used to simulate a derailment during training at the facility. On Wednesday, the area may see a slight reprieve from the soaring temperatures with a better chance of thunderstorms during the afternoon.

If the forecast becomes reality, the heat advisories and warnings gripping the Wiregrass this week may be tempered Wednesday afternoon when the chance of thunderstorms reaches 70 to 80 percent.

On Tuesday, states from Texas to South Carolina recorded triple-digit heat indexes when it felt like 119 degrees (48 Celsius) in West Memphis, Arkansas.

The heat index at the Dothan Regional Airport just before 3 p.m. Tuesday was reported at 107 degrees (42 Celsius) when the actual temperature was 94 degrees.

However, Wednesday’s forecast provides a ray of hope for Wiregrass residents to see some relief from the extreme heat and humidity with a significant chance of afternoon thunderstorms after the heat index again reaches near 106 degrees with temperatures near 94 degrees.

Forecasters say the heat index is what the temperature actually feels like.

Tuesday’s heat warnings across the South came one day after the temperature and humidity combined for a Monday heat index of 121 degrees (49.4 Celsius) in Clarksdale, Mississippi.

By noon Tuesday, the heat index was already 117 degrees (47 Celsius) in Clarksdale; and 114 (46 Celsius) in the west Tennessee city of Dyersburg, the weather service reported.

It’s just as sizzling along the Gulf Coast. The heat index hit 117 (47 Celsius) before noon Tuesday in the Mobile area. Pensacola saw a heat index of 115 (46 Celsius), also before noon.

In downtown Birmingham, Alabama, a piano-playing sidewalk evangelist sought refuge from the sun with two umbrellas — one over his head and the other on his sunny side.

Around the corner, artist Henry L. McShan sold his watercolor landscapes in a shady spot beside a park. Temperatures in Birmingham were already in the 90s Tuesday morning.

"I'm going to be here all day. I've got several bottles of water. I'm ready for it," said McShan, his face glistening with sweat.

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are prime threats during heat waves, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In Kansas, a 2-year-old boy died after he was found alone in a parked car in the afternoon heat Sunday. It appears heat played a role in the child's death, Lawrence Police Chief Gregory Burns Jr. said in a statement Monday. It was about 88 degrees (31 Celsius) with a heat index of 96 (36 Celsius) in Lawrence at the time, the weather service said. The police investigation is continuing.

In Texas, TXU Energy asked its customers to dial back their thermostats between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. Tuesday due to the extreme heat. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which oversees parts of the state's power grid, said it set an all-time peak demand record Monday afternoon.

The Dallas Zoo prepared for large crowds Tuesday during $1 admission day even as forecasters predicted triple-digit temperatures. A Dallas Zoo dollar admission day in July drew more than 30,000 visitors, with temperatures in the 90s, zoo spokeswoman Chelsey Norris said.

Misting tents were set up throughout the zoo for visitors to cool down. Elephants will be soaked with water cannons and offered frozen treats, she said.

The heat alerts in place Tuesday stretched as far east as the Upstate area of South Carolina.

In Spartanburg, South Carolina, the Carolina Panthers and Buffalo Bills are practicing together Tuesday and Wednesday before a preseason NFL game in Charlotte, North Carolina. Over the weekend, Panthers coach Ron Rivera had some fun with Bills coach Sean McDermott, sending a screenshot of the heat index in Spartanburg, South Carolina. It showed 110 degrees (43.3 Celsius) along with an orange emoji face dripping with sweat.

"A psychological game," Rivera joked of the scorching heat that awaits McDermott and the Bills this week.

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