Temperatures in the Southeast topped 100 again Saturday after two weeks of a triple-digit heat wave blamed for at least 22 deaths, and farmers in South Carolina lined up for free hay from the Midwest in the midst of a drought that has cost growers millions of dollars.
Columbia, S.C., hit a record 106 degrees by early afternoon Saturday, the 14th consecutive day the city has had temperatures of 100 or higher. The heat index, a measure of how hot it felt with high humidity and little wind, was expected to reach 120 in South Carolina, the National Weather Service said.
Augusta, Ga., also hit a record 103 degrees, the 31st straight day of 90-plus temperatures in that east Georgia city.
Hottest Since 1980
Other records included 102 at Charlotte, N.C.; 100 at Jacksonville, Fla.; 100 at Columbus, Ga.; 101 at Atlanta, and 96 at Mobile, Ala. Charlotte's high tied a record that has stood since 1886. Memphis, Tenn., hit 101, the hottest the city has been since Sept. 16, 1980.
Temperatures also were into the 90s by midday in parts of Kentucky, Arkansas and Virginia. The humidity in Georgia ranged up to 60%. Heat has been blamed on the deaths this month of at least eight people in Georgia, four in North Carolina, three in Indiana, two in Missouri and one each in South Carolina, Virginia, Louisiana, Illinois and Michigan.
Two Air Force C-141 Starlifter cargo jets landed Saturday at an airport outside Greenville, S.C., with 2,000 bales of hay, about 45 tons, donated by Illinois farmers. Two more plane loads were scheduled for Monday.
Hay Donation Asked
President Reagan ordered the airlift after South Carolina Gov. Richard W. Riley announced plans to ship more than 2,000 tons of hay from the Midwest this week by train, which is being donated by CSX Transportation Corp. Midwest trucking companies also offered free help, and Illinois Gov. James R. Thompson asked farmers to donate hay or sell it at reduced cost.
Thompson said Saturday when the planes were loaded at Springfield, Ill., that he wasn't surprised by the farmers' generosity. "These are people who have spent their whole lives trying to feed the world and battling drought, rain, hail, insects and government bureaucracy every day of their lives," he said. "They can handle a drought for their neighbors."
Drought-caused crop losses in South Carolina are expected to be at least $100 million, and the governor said he would seek a federal disaster declaration for at least two-thirds of the state.
Meanwhile, trucks were loaded with more donated hay near Rochester, Ind.
'Situation Is Critical'
"At some point in time, Indiana would like to sell its hay, but right now we understand the situation is critical to those farmers down there," said Roger Stevens, an aide to Lt. Gov. John Mutz.
In the Midwest, tornadoes were knocking out power in areas already affected by heat.
In Minnesota, Northern States Power Co. said Saturday that about 800 customers in Hennepin and Anoka counties were still without power, down from about 2,500 who lost power Friday when tornadoes ripped up power lines in suburbs around Minneapolis.
Lightning Hurts Two
The tornadoes uprooted dozens of trees and damaged at least 12 houses in a new development. Two men were injured when their sailboat was struck by lightning.
"It was the most awesome thing I have ever seen," said Max Messmer, 49, a news helicopter pilot who flew about a quarter-mile from one tornado as KARE-TV cameraman Tom Empey shot dramatic close-ups.
Messmer, a helicopter pilot for 27 years, said he trailed the tornado for about 25 minutes and that the only close call was when a large branch hit the chopper's rotor blade. The aircraft was not damaged.
In St. Louis, declaration of a heat alert triggered the opening of 13 cooling centers for people who cannot cool their homes, and Cincinnati opened four emergency "cool centers" for the elderly Friday.