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Americans get relief from heat, but severe storms loom

TODAY's Al Roker tracks dangerous storms moving in from the West after sweltering heat blanketed most of the country.

Updated at 2:50 p.m. ET — Americans in the Midwest and East Coast are getting a break from last week’s extreme heat, but weather experts say severe storms could take its place.

“Scattered showers and thunderstorms occur from the Mid-Atlantic to the central and southern Plains and southern Rockies,” the National Weather Service predicted. “Some thunderstorms may become severe from southern Virginia and the Carolinas to eastern Oklahoma and northeast Texas.”

The agency added: “Very hot temperatures are still possible across parts of the South, Midwest and southern Plains, but the area of 100 degree-plus temperatures will be much smaller than last week”

TODAY show meteorologist Al Roker said a change in the jetstream has cooled temperatures in the eastern U.S., but resulted in high pressure -- and rising temperatures -- in the western part of the country. Reno, Nev., and Salt Lake City were expected to hit 96 degrees on Monday.

The death toll from last week's heat wave jumped to 82, The Weather Channel reported Monday. Storms, meanwhile, left hundreds of thousands of Americans without power.

The heat wave that gripped the Midwest in recent weeks appears to have broken, but for farmers in the heartland, relief will only truly come with a downpour. NBC's John Yang reports.

On Sunday, National Weather Service Meteorologist Andrew Orrison said a cool front will move through the South and the mid-Atlantic bringing thunderstorms and showers.

The cooler air began sweeping southward Sunday in the eastern half of the country, bringing down some temperatures by 15 or more degrees from Saturday's highs, which topped 100 in cities including Philadelphia, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Louisville, Ky., and Washington, D.C.

It was 80-plus degrees in New York City on Sunday night. Some visitors said they'd spent much of the weekend shopping in air-conditioned stores rather than exploring Central Park as they had planned.

"But that's OK, shopping is always good in New York," said Linda Boteach of Baltimore, waiting to board a bus that was spewing exhaust into the already hot night.

"It was worse in Baltimore," Boteach said. "It's all relative."

In Chicago, the Cook County medical examiner's office determined Sunday that eight more people died from heat-related causes, adding to the 10 deaths confirmed Saturday. The deaths included a 100-year-old woman, a 65-year-old woman, a 53-year-old man, a 46-year-old woman and an unidentified man believed to be about 30 years old.

In Tennessee, the third heat-related death of the year was a 62-year-old woman found dead in her home. She had a working air conditioner, but it was not turned on.

Deaths have also been reported by authorities in Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

To stay cool, Americans tried familiar solutions — dipping into the pool, going to the movies and riding subways just to be in air conditioning.

Gregory Englebach relaxed on a bench Sunday evening near the Starbucks coffee shop in Philadelphia where he'd worked all day, enjoying temperatures that had dipped into the 80s.

"It's the humidity that gets me," said the 24-year-old Englebach. He said he thinks his utility bill has already gone up by $30 or $40 because of his increased use of electricity at home. But he's resigned to it: "It's air conditioning or I can't sleep at night," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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