D190814 cool off

Ramie Woods cools off in the Aquadome Recreation Center's swimming pool on Tuesday. Temperatures in Decatur reached 97 degrees Tuesday, but it felt like 110, according to the National Weather Service. [JERONIMO NISA/DECATUR DAILY]

Stifling heat covered much of the South on Tuesday and made it feel like 110 degrees in Decatur for the first time in about 40 years, but thunderstorms expected overnight will provide relief today.

“The good news is that will help bring in some slightly drier air,” said Brian Carcione, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Huntsville. “It won’t be quite as humid the next couple of days.

“It’s really the humidity people are feeling more than anything else.”

The thermometer reached 97 in Decatur on Tuesday, but the heat index, a combination of temperature and humidity, was as high as 110.

Steve Kennemer felt the heat while driving a delivery truck cooled only by outside air coming in through an open window and door.

“I stop at a light, I instantly start sweating,” the Hartselle resident said during a Decatur delivery. “I know the humidity is high.”

Carcione said there are no records for the last time Decatur’s heat index was as high as it was Tuesday, but based on other historical data it’s probably been since 1980 or 1973. Huntsville’s heat index was at 110 Tuesday for the first time since 1973, and Muscle Shoals’ reached 112 for the first time since 1980.

Highs will be 89 today and 90 Thursday in the Decatur area, according to Carcione, with the heat index in the mid-90s. Temperatures will climb back toward the mid-90s Saturday when the heat index could again approach 100. Lows could dip to 67 tonight and Thursday night, he said.

Any relief will be welcomed across the South after the region endured heat advisories and Birmingham opened its auditorium as a refuge for anyone needing to cool down.

Some schools and coaches in the Southeast limited football practice for players getting ready for the upcoming season, and social media was dotted with photos showing automobile thermometers with triple-digit readings.

The weather service said the afternoon heat index climbed to 120 degrees in Clarksdale, Mississippi, nearly hitting the 121 degrees it felt like Monday. Readings were nearly as high in cities including Dyersburg, Tennessee, and West Memphis, Arkansas.

It was just as sizzling along the Gulf Coast in south Alabama and along the Florida Panhandle. The heat index hit 117 before noon Tuesday in the Mobile area.

The heat index in the hottest areas should be 15 to 20 degrees cooler today, according to the weather service.

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. The heat index was 96 at the time, the weather service said.

In Texas, managers of the state's main electric grid declared an energy conservation emergency and asked its customers to dial back their thermostats between 3 and 7 p.m. Tuesday because of the extreme heat. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas took the action a day after it set an all-time peak demand record.

At the Dallas Zoo, where $1 admission day was expected to draw large crowds, misting tents were set up for visitors to cool down. Plans were to soak elephants with water cannons and offer them frozen treats, said spokeswoman Chelsey Norris.

Heat alerts stretched as far east as the Upstate area of South Carolina.

In Spartanburg, South Carolina, the Carolina Panthers and Buffalo Bills practiced together 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 along with an orange emoji face dripping with sweat.

"A psychological game," Rivera joked.

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