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Dozens of deaths tied to heat wave over last 2 weeks

In the hot zone emergency room visits are on the rise as the number of heat-related deaths rose, especially among the sick and elderly. NBC's John Yang reports.

Cooler weather was on the horizon for the Midwest, but not before two weeks of oven-like temperatures had taken their toll: at least 46 deaths were tied to the heat over that period, according to a list compiled by the Weather Channel. Friday also saw the 9th straight day at 100 degrees or above in St. Louis, Mo., and the third straight day above 100 in Chicago.

Virginia saw the most heat-related deaths with 10, followed by Maryland (9) and Illinois (6). Three of the dead were children, with the rest adults between 45 and 83.

Temperatures in the Midwest should be back in the 80s by Sunday -- but only after another hot round on Saturday as the heat wave shifts to the East Coast.

Washington, D.C., on Saturday could break its all time record of 106, the Weather Channel reported. Same with Pittsburgh (103) and Louisville, Ky., (107). 

The heat wave has included several rounds of storms that add to the misery.

The extreme heat in Indianapolis, Indiana is proving to be too much for a chocolatier's air conditioning system, reluctantly closing rather than risk having their inventory melt. WTHR's Emily Longnecker reports.

Following last weekend's storms, at least 406,000 people were without electricity on Friday in West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland and Ohio, power companies said.

Indiana, Virginia and West Virginia on Thursday saw new storms and new power outages, while the same happened in Michigan on Wednesday.

St. Louis, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Chicago and several other Midwest cities already have broken heat records this week. 

St. Louis hit a record high of 105 on Wednesday and a record low of 83. The city hadn't seen 9 straight days at or above 100 since 1936.

In Chicago, three straight days above 100 hadn't been seen since 1947 and the city has no longer stretch on record. There's a slight chance that could be broken Saturday.

In Wisconsin, the coolest Milwaukee and Madison got was 81 in the early morning, beating previous low records by 2 and 4 degrees respectively. Temperatures didn't fall below 79 in Chicago, 78 in Grand Rapids, Mich., and 75 in Indianapolis.

"When a day starts out that warm, it doesn't take as much time to reach high temperatures in the low 100s," said Marcia Cronce, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. "You know it'll be a warm day when you start out at 80 degrees."

Investigators say at least two deaths in the Midwest are the result of the sweltering heat that continues to cook the region. NBC's John Yang reports.

When the air conditioner stopped in Ashley Jackson's Southfield, Mich., home, so too did normal conversations and nightly rest. 

"Inside the house it was 91 degrees. ... I wasn't talking to anybody. Nobody was talking to anybody," said Jackson, 23, who works as a short-order cook in Detroit. "We mostly slept, but it was hard to sleep because of the heat. I probably got about four hours of sleep each night."

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In Chicago on Thursday, the Shedd Aquarium lost power as temperatures soared to 103 degrees, a record for July 5. Officials said emergency generators immediately kicked in and the outage never threatened any of animals, but several hundred visitors were sent back out into the heat.

Celebrating the warm summer months, as schools let out and the cooling off begins


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The other heat-related deaths happened across a wide swathe of the country: Alabama (5), Missouri (5), Ohio (3), Wisconsin (3), Tennessee (2), South Carolina (2) and Kentucky (1).

The heat has also taken a toll on agriculture. 

Dean Hines, the owner of Hines Ranch Inc. in the western Wisconsin town of Ellsworth, said he found one of his 80 dairy cows dead Thursday, an apparent victim of the heat. He said he was worried about the rest of his herd, in terms of death toll, reproductive consequences and milk production. 

"We're using fans and misters to keep them cool," he said. "It's been terrible. When it doesn't cool down at night, the poor animals don't have a chance to cool down."

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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