WASHINGTON, June 17 (AP) — Communities from Houston to New Orleans opened cooling centers to ease the heat as beachgoers fled a waterspout that ravaged Florida beaches Saturday as the heat hit a swath of the southern United States.
Meanwhile, Gov. Greg Abbott visited Perryton, in the Texas Panhandle, where officials said a tornado killed three people late Thursday More than 1,000 customers there remain without power following the death.
The Ochitree Chamber of Commerce in Peryton said it would open a cooling center in the town of 8,000 about 115 miles (185 kilometers) northeast of Amarillo to offset the post-storm heat.
The National Weather Service issued an overheat warning Saturday night along the Gulf Coast from Brownsville, Texas, to Houston. Heat indices ranged from nearly 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46 degrees Celsius) in Houston to nearly 120 degrees Fahrenheit (49 degrees Celsius) in Brownsville and Corpus Christi, Texas, the report said. Cities along the coast and further inland set up shelters for residents without electricity.
“What’s really changing is the humidity,” said Alison Pratt, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Fort Worth, Texas. “It made the heat index, or the perceived ‘temperature,’ really spike.”
Temperatures could reach 94 degrees Fahrenheit (34 degrees Celsius) in the Dallas area on Saturday, Pratt said, but high humidity would make it feel like 105 degrees Fahrenheit (40.5 degrees Celsius).
“The reason we have these high temperatures is because of a lot of moisture being drawn from the Gulf of Mexico,” Pratt said. “It’s produced in the presence of elevated temperatures … it feels like ‘temperature.'”
Two women and an 11-year-old boy were killed and as many as 125 people were injured when the tornado hit Perryton. Authorities upgraded the tornado’s intensity to EF-3 on Saturday, saying it had winds of up to 140 mph (225 kph).
Ochitree County Sheriff Terry Boucher told Amarillo’s KVII-TV that the missing person has been located.
“It landed right over Perryton,” Bouchard said. “We’ve lost a lot of homes, businesses and rental properties. There’s been a lot of damage to our community and it’s going to take some time to clean it up.”
East Texas also reported storm-related power outages late Friday, while a weekend of sweltering heat and humidity is likely.
In Louisiana, the National Weather Service is forecasting daytime temperatures of about 94 degrees Fahrenheit (34 degrees Celsius) on Monday, with humidity and heat index values as high as 112 degrees Fahrenheit (44 degrees Celsius).
The city of New Orleans opened cooling centers and water stations and advised residents to take extra precautions when outside, wearing light, loose-fitting clothing, taking frequent breaks in shaded or air-conditioned environments and drinking plenty of fluids.
Entergy New Orleans and the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Commission are suspending blackouts on delinquent accounts through Tuesday.
In Florida, city officials in Clearwater said in an email that a waterspout made landfall Friday afternoon, “blowing beach-related items into the air” and injuring two people in Kansas.
The 70-year-old woman and 63-year-old man were treated at a local hospital for minor injuries, authorities said. Their identities have not been made public.
Before 7 p.m. Saturday, the National Weather Service in Miami issued a heat advisory for much of South Florida, where the combination of heat and humidity was expected to reach a “feeling” temperature of 105 degrees Fahrenheit (40.5 degrees Celsius).
“High temperatures and high humidity can lead to heat stroke,” the service reported. Temperatures are expected to hit about 92 degrees (33 degrees Celsius) in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Saturday. (Associated Press)
(This is an unedited and auto-generated story from a Syndicated News feed, the content body may not have been modified or edited by LatestLY staff)