(NEW YORK) — This Fourth of July could very well be the hottest Independence Day ever for many parts of the country.
And if you thought it felt warmer out there Tuesday, there’s good reason. Humidity levels were high across the country; combine that with high temperatures and you get the heat index — what it actually feels like outside — hitting 100 degrees and above across much of the nation.
In parts of West Virginia, folks found themselves desperate for ice and water. In parts of Illinois, there were long lines to buy generators. And in Wisconsin this weekend, the oven-like heat caused the pavement to expand and the road to buckle — creating a ramp that actually launched an SUV into midair.
Across much of the country again Tuesday, temperatures pushed well into and past the 90s. It was 101 degrees in Raleigh, N.C. In St. Louis, temperatures reached 100 degrees. The cities of Chicago, Minneapolis, Detroit, Memphis, Tenn., and Kansas City, Mo., are on track to have their hottest Fourth of Julys ever.
And the extreme heat is making the extreme drought even worse. Last year at this time one-third of the nation was experiencing drought. This year, three-quarters of the country is parched, conditions that are playing a major role in the epic wildfires out west.
Back east, more than one million homes in seven states were still without power Tuesday night – the region, still reeling from last weekend’s violent storms. Many of those without power could remain in the dark for the rest of this week.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Pamela Brown, CNN
Jethro Mullen, Ravi Hiranand and Frank Pallotta, CNN
Sandra Gonzalez, CNN