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"Unrelenting" heat wave scorches Midwest

Forecasters call the heat wave gripping the central U.S. "unrelenting," and say residents should not expect any relief soon.

Heat advisories and warnings are in place in 17 states, from Texas to Michigan, as temperatures and humidity combine to make being outside uncomfortable for millions.

Across the country, this month's summer's searing heat has tied or broken high temperature records nearly 900 times, reports CBS News correspondent Cynthia Bowers.

A half-dozen cities set new all-time highs. On June 15 it hit 105º in Tallahasse, Fla., and on June 26 records were broken or tied in Amarillo, Texas (111º), Borger, Texas (113º), Dalhart, Texas (110º), Childress, Texas (117º) and Gage, Okla. (113º).

In Oklahoma there's no place to hide - Oklahoma City temperatures have been 90 degrees or more for 47 straight days, topping a hundred nearly every day this month. With triple-digit heat possible through September, the city is on pace to break its record for such days (50, set in 1980).

In Enid, Okla., asphalt at a major intersection along U.S. Highway 412 buckled Saturday night from the intense heat.

The governor asked for a statewide day of prayer in the hopes of divine intervention.

Okla. governor calls for prayer to end heat wave
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In Chicago, with heat indexes over a hundred, thousands sought relief in the relatively chilly 78-degree waters of Lake Michigan.

An Omaha, Neb., amusement park owner said the water in the park's two pools felt like bathwater heading into the weekend. So Fun Plex owner Dwight Anderson had 2 tons of ice cubes dumped in Friday evening to cool things off. That brought the water temperature down from 88 degrees to a comparatively chilly 82.

In Chicago public health officials say it's time to take extra precautions. Their tips include limiting time outdoors, drinking plenty of water and wearing loose fitting clothes. Health officials are also urging the public to keep a close eye on infants and the elderly. The city says half a dozen cooling centers will be open this week.

For those who have to work outside the Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommends frequent rest breaks in the shade or air conditioning.

There are heat advisories, warnings and watches for counties across Illinois, where temperatures may reach into the 100s in some parts.

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Cooling centers also were open in Detroit to help residents who don't have air conditioning at home. Others were heading toward water for relief, including 65-year-old welder Marcellus Washington, who wore a floppy cloth fishing hat and sunglasses as he walked through a park on the Detroit River that marks the border with Canada.

"A day like this, you can't beat it," Washington said. "It's a heavenly day. It's God's weather."

Others who had to be outside in the heat took precautions. North Dakota National Guard Capt. Dan Murphy said several hundred soldiers deployed for flood-fighting efforts in the Dakotas were required to take mandatory rest breaks in the shade.

"It's hot in those vests and uniforms," Murphy said. "These are soldiers. They can't just strip down to T-shirts and shorts."

Officials at the Cornhusker State Games, an amateur sports festival in Nebraska, had crews bring extra water and ice for participants.

"It takes a physical toll on anyone out there," said the event's executive director, Dave Minarik.

The Schwan's USA Cup youth soccer tournament in Blaine, Minn., suspended play for a time Sunday because of heat indexes that soared to 110 degrees. Tournament spokesman Barclay Kruse said organizers wanted to avoid any heat-related health issues before they developed.

Police said heat may have played a role in the death of a 55-year-old man at a homeless camp in Springfield, Mo., on Saturday. Police found him in a small tent after others at the camp raised alarm. An autopsy is scheduled for Monday.

The heat also is adversely affecting wildlife. The Texas AgriLife Extension Service said last week that pregnant does are having difficulty carrying fawns to term and other fawns are being born prematurely.

Texas A&M University researchers determined the period from February to June was the driest such period on record in Texas, with a statewide average of 4.26 inches of rain. The next driest February-to-June stretch was in 1917, with a 6.45-inch rain average.

The Smokovs in North Dakota monitored their cattle for heat symptoms Sunday as temperatures neared triple digits.

"The cattle seem to be OK and we haven't lost any from the heat," Betty Smokov said. "We're making sure they got water and in this heat, that's all you can do."