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Stifling heat forecast for half the United States

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Abigail Gregory, 7, holds an ice bag on her head Monday as she leans up against fans set up in the horse barn at the Bartholomew County 4-H Fair near Columbus, Ind.

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CHICAGO -- Excessive heat was forecast to blanket half of the the continental United States on Tuesday.

The National Weather Service issued heat warnings or advisories for 24 states stretching from parts of Texas and Oklahoma to the plains, the Mississippi Valley and the east coast.

“It’s going to stay hot in the central to southern plain states,” said Chris Vaccaro, a spokesman for the weather service.

The heat on the east coast is not expected to be as intense.

“For the most part it’s a one day heat wave,” Vaccaro said.

But there was no reprieve from the heat in sight for Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Yesterday was the 13th consecutive day temperatures hovered at or above 100 degrees, according to the weather service. And the heat was expected to continue through next weekend.

Air quality alerts were also in effect on the east coast from Virginia to New Jersey.

In addition to the sweltering heat, scattered thunderstorms that could produce damaging winds and hail were in the forecast from southern Nebraska to northern Kansas to parts of the mid-Atlantic from Southern Virginia to North Carolina.

This was the same system that hit the Chicago area yesterday leaving a record 868,000 customers without power.

As of 8 a.m. local time 361,000 customers were still without power Tuesday morning, according to ComEd, the utility company servicing the area.

“We have restored power to approximately 500,000 customers so far,” said Tony Hernandez, ComEd spokesman.

“We have asked for support from neighboring utilities,” Hernandez said, who also said 900 crews are working around the clock to restore power.

Crews from Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan were already in the area. And crews from Tennessee, Alabama and Pennsylvania were on the way.

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