Midwest Continues to Bake as Heat Wave Moves East

VIDEO: Soaring temperatures dry up water sources across the Southwest.PlayABCNEWS.com
WATCH Heat Wave Water Crisis

A dangerous heat wave continues to hover over the central part of the U.S. and is expected to spread eastward over the next few days. Forecasters say the heat wave will be sticking around well into next week.

Watch "World News with Diane Sawyer" for more on this story tonight on ABC.

The massive heat dome is baking the middle of the country. Seventeen states, from Texas to Minnesota and into Ohio are under a heat watch, warning or advisory.

Heat index values in the Midwest are expected to stay planted in the triple digits, making it feel like at least 100 degrees and higher throughout the afternoon today.

Texas has been experiencing its driest period on record. Researchers from Texas A&M University determined that from February to June this year, the state only averaged 4.26 inches of rain, and the heat is beginning to take its toll on the local wildlife. The last time the state saw this dry of a season was in 1917 when it averaged 6.45 inches of rainfall.

Much of the water in some lakes across the country is now disappearing.

Lake Travis in central Texas is now six feet below normal levels, and is still losing two inches each day. The same is happening on the shores of Lake Arlington, where Andrew Jones tries to fish in the shrinking waters.

"We had heard that we were in the drought conditions but I didn't think it was this bad, this low," he said.

Much of the heat is centered over areas that are still recovering from massive flooding this spring. All of the water is evaporating, adding humidity to the already oppressive temperatures.

Southwest Oklahoma isn't faring any better. One fisherman, Hal McKnight, is moving his fish into deeper water by hand to save them from the evaporating water.

"I mean we do have dry, hot summers here in Oklahoma but we have never seen anything like this," he said.

The warm, stagnant water that's left in these lakes is quickly becoming contaminated with algae and bacteria. Many health officials in Oklahoma have been forced to turn the public away because of the dangerous germs. Temperatures in the area have reached 100 degrees or higher 27 times already this year.

Meanwhile, the northern part of the country is coming to a boiling point. Minneapolis will feel like it's 118 degrees, when the average temperature for this time in July is in the mid-80s.

The oppressive heat has caused many problems for people who live in places that don't normally record such high temperatures.

A 55-year-old man died at a homeless camp in Springfield, Mo., on Saturday, and police said that heat may have played a role in his death. Police found him in a small tent after other people at the camp made them aware. The autopsy is scheduled for today.

The heat and humidity has sent six people to the hospital in Iowa, where the top recorded temperature reached 99 degrees on Sunday in Council Bluffs, Iowa. The average temperature for this time of year is 88 degrees.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the state, authorities say that smoke detectors went off, sending out false alarms because two homes were so hot the sensors were triggered.

The heat is also affecting local wildlife in Texas. Researchers found that many does are unable to carry fawns to term in this weather, causing premature births.

Government officials and business owners are doing what they can to help people keep cool.

City officials have opened cooling centers in Chicago, where temperatures are expected to hit 105 degrees. Cooling centers have also been opened in Detroit to help residents who don't have air conditioning in their homes.

Dwight Anderson, who owns an amusement park in Omaha, had two tons of ice cubes dumped into the park's swimming pools on Friday night to lower the water temperature from 88 degrees to 82. Anderson told the Associated Press that he plans to dump more ice into the pools tonight or Tuesday.

Ways to Beat the Heat

The National Weather Service has several safety tips for adults looking to keep cool.

Slow down. Try to reduce or cancel any strenuous activities, or reschedule them for the coolest part of the day.

Wear light-weight, light-colored clothing to reflect sunlight and heat.

Eat lighter foods. Meat and other proteins increase metabolic heat production and could cause even more water loss.

Drink plenty of water, but avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks.

Spend more time in air conditioned places. If you don't have an air conditioner in your home, go to a library, store or other location for part of the day to stay cool.

Avoid getting too much sun. Sunburn can reduce your body's ability to release heat.

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