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Weekend weather brings misery

Tornadoes, extreme heat, impact thousands while others watch dams and levees fearing new flooding

BY VICKI DESORMIER | BALTIMORE | June 9, 2008

While weather has been topsy-turvy across the middle of the country, summer arrived a few weeks early throughout the east and Midwest and has hit with a vengeance.

On Saturday, several tornadoes crushed houses and other buildings, ripped power lines from the ground and flipped several cars and trucks. The small, but powerful, storm system ripped through an area just south of Chicago before losing its punch and sputtering out over Lake Michigan.

The National Weather Service confirmed six tornadoes touched down near Chicago. Reports of snapped power poles, uprooted trees and torn fences were common. Near the Kankakee River, at the Kankakee-Will County border, the roof of a two-story house was ripped completely off. There were reports in other areas of barns damaged and the siding ripped from several houses.

Most of the tornadoes took paths through sparsely populated areas where damage was minimal because buildings were few. The storms that moved though more highly-populated areas left scattered damage, often from fallen tree limbs. One car was smashed in Lansing when a tree fell on it during the storm.

There were no reports of injuries of fatalities as a result of the storm.

An unrelated storm system that pushed through Wyoming caused flooding in Kent and Ottowa Counties. There were reports of drivers being trapped in their cars by the floodwaters. The storm produced frequent lightning in addition to the rain and high winds. Fires caused by the lightning, including one that ignited when a transformer was struck, were quickly brought under control.

The threat of significant flooding continued in Iowa where emergency officials were warning that the Coralville Reservoir could top its spillway by Tuesday. Sgt. Troy Kelsay of the Iowa City Police said flood damage could be as bad or worse than record flooding that occurred in 1993.

And in Parkersburg, IA, where tornadoes seriously damaged much of the town two weeks ago, a levee a broke. In nearby New Hartford, also damaged by tornadoes, another levee broke forcing more than 500 people from their homes.

While locations further south struggled with tornadoes throughout the spring, weather officials said the shift in the jet stream would bring the storms into the upper reaches of the Midwest as spring eased into summer.

According to Tim Roche of Weather Underground, the wet weather in the country's mid-section gave way to heat in the east. Boston, Philadelphia and other cities had to open cooling centers where residents who don't have air conditioning could go to escape the temperatures that soared into the upper 90s.

Further south, the temperatures were even higher. At the Raleigh-Durham Airport, a high temperature record, set in 1999, was tied when the thermometer reached 100 degrees.

Health officials warned that the high temperatures were extremely dangerous and people should be extremely careful when engaging in any kind of activity outside or even inside when air conditioning is not available.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, people will succumb to heat-related illnesses because their bodies are not able to compensate properly for the heat and because the body systems aren't able to properly cool themselves. Normally, the body sweats to cool itself off, but when the temperatures are extremely high, sweating isn't enough and the body temperature rises rapidly.

Overheating can cause brain damage or harm other vital organs.

People suffering from heat stroke are often unaware of their condition, experts warned. Signs of heat stroke include high body temperature; dry, hot skin; dizziness, confusion; nausea; lack of sweating and, sometimes, a loss of consciousness.

In Washington, DC, the Department of Parks and Recreation will open 10 outdoor swimming pools and four spray parks on Monday. The city is also opening four cooling centers.

Andrew Troisi of the Office of Emergency Management in New York City said they were opening several cooling centers. The Salvation Army was opening several centers as well.

"Heat illness is serious. For some, it can be life-threatening. You can avoid it by staying in an air-conditioned environment," he warned.

Temperatures across the contiguous 48 states reached extremes on Sunday, with a low of 21 degrees reported in Copper Mountain, CO and a high of 104 in Wink, TX.

Changes in the jet stream will continue to cause unsettled weather for the duration of this week, meteorologists at the National Weather Service predicted.


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Earth has warmest May on record

Heat wave prediction model identified

Northeast U.S. bakes in heatwave


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