By Brad Brooks

LUBBOCK, Texas (Reuters) -A prolonged heat wave blanketed a swath of the U.S. stretching from California to South Florida on Wednesday, with forecasters expecting temperatures that could shatter records in parts of the Southwest in the coming days.

The National Weather Service issued excessive heat advisories, watches and warnings for areas in which about 100 million Americans reside. The sweltering conditions are expected to remain through the weekend and beyond.

While stifling temperatures gripped many parts of the country, Vermont and other Northeastern states began cleaning up from historic flooding triggered by intense downpours linked by climate experts to global warming.

In Las Vegas, Wednesday’s midday temperature reached 101 degrees F (38 C) and the daily high could top out at 108 degrees. The desert city’s all-time high mark of 117 F (47 C) could topple on Sunday, the weather service said.

Tiffany Boscoe, owner of The Jolt Coffee Co in downtown Las Vegas, said many customers were coming in for an iced drink and to get out of the scorching heat.

“The cold brew goes fast and people order lots of blended iced drinks,” she said. “We have a computer center and WiFi, so people tend to hang out.”

In Phoenix, where thermometers read 100 F at midday, the high could reach above 110 F (43 C) for the 13th successive day. The forecast puts the city’s daily highs above 110 F at least through next Wednesday, which would shatter the record of 18 days above that mark set in June 1974.

At the family-owned Six Points Hardware store in Phoenix, fans and air conditioner units have been flying off the shelves, said store manager Drew Materniak.

The heat means “business is good,” he said, noting the biggest seller has been large cooling fans, sold largely to businesses like auto shops that can’t air condition.

“Just stay inside man, just stay inside,” was Materniak’s advice for dealing with the heat.

Forecasters urged people facing the extreme heat, especially children and the elderly, to keep out of the unrelenting sun, to reschedule strenuous outdoor activities and to drink plenty of fluids during the next several days.

“Heat stroke can lead to death,” the weather service warned.

A ridge of stagnant air parked in the atmosphere was causing the excessive temperatures, said Ashton Robinson Cook, a forecaster with the weather service’s Weather Prediction Center. The mass blocks cooler air and storm systems from rolling through the area, so it’s “just full sun and heat,” he said.

In Texas, most will see temperatures in the upper 90s to above 100 F (37 C) on Wednesday, while the heat index will make it feel like 114 F (46 C) in some places through the weekend. Warm ocean water is causing the moist, humid air over much of the state that drives the heat index higher, Cook said.

In a cooling center in the West Texas city of Lubbock, where temperature rose to 96 F by midday, Courtney Martin, 41 and homeless for the past two weeks, sat quietly inside a public library doing needlepoint, keeping cool and staying hydrated with free bottles of water.

“I’m in here to beat the heat,” said Martin, who recently moved to Lubbock from Michigan and is not accustomed to the high temperatures. “I don’t know what I’d do without the libraries as cooling centers.”

Hannah Stewart, director of Lubbock’s library system, said hundreds of people have sought refuge from the hot weather in the main branch library alone over the past two weeks.

“We’re doing part of our duty to serve the community during this really horrendous heat wave,” Stewart said.


The growing frequency and intensity of severe weather across the U.S. is symptomatic of global, human-driven climate change, experts in the field say.

In Montpelier, Vermont’s capital, floodwaters turned the city’s downtown into a swirling, brown waterway, damaged roads leading in and out of town and trapped some residents in their homes and businesses. At least 117 water rescues were carried out by teams across the northeast state as of Tuesday evening.

The catastrophic flooding may have compromised Montpelier’s water supply, the city said on Facebook.

Officials told the city’s 8,000 residents to boil their water before using it until further notice, and urged people to stay off the roads as cleanup crews assess the damage.

(Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago and Rich McKay in Atlanta; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Bill Berkrot)

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