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Heat wave bakes Midwest, South

44 dead as temperatures hit record highs.

BY STAFF REPORT | MEMPHIS, Tenn. | August 19, 2007

At least 44 people are now dead due to the severe heat wave in the South and Midwest.

Memphis officials reported another 2 deaths from the extreme heat this weekend, bringing the total to 13 deaths in Tennessee alone.

Temperatures have been hitting triple-digits for two weeks now in Memphis, St. Louis and Kansas City. The National Weather Service continued issuing excessive heat warnings and heat advisories across Tennessee, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, South Carolina and Georgia. Humidity will cause temperatures to reach into the upper 90s and beyond for the states, forecasters said.

Parts of Indiana and Illinois have been baking for days as well, with a record high of 104 in Evansville, Ind., earlier this week. Nebraska, Kentucky and Missouri saw temperature records as well.

The Salvation Army opened cooling centers across the impacted states and cities opened community centers to the public for relief as well. Officials urged the public to check in on elderly neighbors. Construction workers in parts of Texas rescheduled work days to start earlier in order to avoid the heat. Sports teams in Georgia rescheduled practices to avoid the heat of the midday.

Across the affected states, organizations and companies were pitching in to assist their neighbors in need.

One Nashville air-conditioning company ran a contest to give away free air conditioners, and for those who didn't win, some received free service for their broken units. Other companies donated fans and funds to The Salvation Army for distribution. Cool Down St. Louis was accepting donations to buy air conditioners and help pay residents' electric bills. A cab company in Alabama offered free rides to cooling centers for senior citizens.

In Kansas City, Mo., Salvation Army workers hit the streets earlier this week to hand out cold drinks to the homeless. They also made nearly 800 phone calls to check on elderly and shut-in residents and distributed fans and air conditioners to families with ill children.

Alabama Gov. Bob Riley asked churches across the state this week to open their doors as cooling centers for residents.

Heat advisories from the National Weather Service said children, the elderly and people with chronic illnesses are usually the first to suffer from the heat. Health officials urged those who have to be outside to avoid prolonged exposure and strenuous activity. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are a major risk.

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