Claire Leatherwood, left, and Lindsay Donaldson cool off in a Washington… (Jim Lo Scalzo / EPA )
Relief appears to be in sight for much of the United States suffering through a record-breaking heat wave that's been linked to more than 30 deaths during the past week.
The high-pressure dome and triple-digit heat that have stifled the middle and eastern parts of the country will move west in coming days, meteorologists say. Then it will be the mountain states' turn to feel the heat.
For the East, "This is an end to the heat wave – at least, for now,” said Dan Hawblitzel, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Kansas City, where temperatures remained above 105 degrees Saturday.
Some cities set heat records for the day, including Washington, at 105, Sioux Falls, S.D., at 104 and Baltimore at 102, the Associated Press reported. Even residents of cities that didn't set records were uncomfortable, with Louisville hitting 105, Indianapolis 104 and Philadelphia 101.
But by early in the week, temperatures could drop by as much as 20 degrees from the Midwest through the East, Hawblitzel said.
Credit a low-pressure system moving south from Canada, he said. That system will be pushing the hot weather west, where it will narrow over the mountain states early next week.
Once there, the heat could complicate efforts to fight still-raging forest wildfires, most notably in Colorado, where low humidity and months of drought have created massive “super fires.” Conditions are so dry that forest fires are sparking from overheated cars, people firing guns and heavy-equipment operators.
Already, the high temperatures have been blamed for nine deaths in Maryland and 10 in Chicago, the AP reported; other heat-related deaths have been reported in Ohio, Wisconsin, Tennessee and Pennsylvania. Most of the deaths have been among the elderly.
In Illinois and Wisconsin, the heat also buckled highways, the AP said, and investigators suspect it could have played a part in a partial train derailment in Maryland by causing tracks to kink. No one was injured in that incident.
In the Midwest, crops have shriveled in the heat after many months of drought. Now, sun-crisped vegetation and prairie grasses in fields are beginning to burn.
“This not our typical fire weather season,” Hawblitzel said. “It’s usually earlier in the spring, when vegetation hasn’t greened. But 'green' doesn’t mean much this year.”
And on Saturday, more than a week after fatal storms swept through the region, thousands of mid-Atlantic residents remained in the heat without power or air conditioning.