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The sun rises above the horizon Wednesday morning, June 27, 2012 in Decatur, Ala. as roofer Mike Murphy cuts out blisters in the roof of Decatur High School. Much of Alabama is gripped in an early summer heat wave that has already sent the temperature over 100 degrees in some Alabama cities. To cope with the extreme heat, Murphy's work day starts at 5 a.m. and ends at 1:30 p.m. (AP Photo/The Decatur Daily, John Godbey)
Nation bakes as serious heat wave hits early
Breaking records » More than 1,000 high-temperature records fell in the past seven days.
First Published Jun 28 2012 12:05 pm • Last Updated Jun 28 2012 12:14 pm

If you’re feeling hot this week, it’s not a mirage. From Montana to Louisiana, hundreds of heat records have been slashed as harrowing temperatures leave cornfields parched and city sidewalks sizzling.

On Tuesday 251 new daily high temperature records were set, boosting to 1,015 the number of records set in the past seven days.

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The consequences range from comical — a bacon-fried driveway in Oklahoma — to catastrophic, as wildfires consuming parts of the Rocky Mountains are fueled by oppressive heat and gusty winds.

The record-breaking numbers might seem big, but they’re hard to put into context — the National Climatic Data Center has only been tracking the daily numbers broken for a little more than a year, said Derek Arndt, head of climate monitoring at the center.

Still, it’s impressive, given that records usually aren’t broken until the scorching months of July and August.

"Any time you’re breaking all-time records in mid- to late-June, that’s a healthy heat wave," Arndt said.

And if forecasts hold, more records could fall in the coming days in the central and western parts of the country and extend to the East Coast through the weekend.

Though it’s been a week that could fry a person’s soul — and their soles and hands, really anything exposed to the relentless sun — no matter where you are, the objective is the same: stay cool.

HIGH STAKES, HIGH TEMPS


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All bets are off at the famed thoroughbred racetrack Churchill Downs during the heat wave — at least they will be Thursday.

The Louisville, Ky., venue canceled its racing card as meteorologists predicted temperatures would touch at least 100 degrees. Track spokesman Darren Rogers said he thinks it’s the first time the home of the Kentucky Derby has canceled racing due to extreme heat.

Longtime horse trainer Dale Romans has seen the toll that sweltering temperatures can take on the animals.

"I’ve seen horses have heat strokes, and it’s not a pretty sight," the veteran Kentucky trainer said Wednesday.

Romans said he thinks most of the horses and humans could handle the heat, but it’s not worth the risk, especially when the dirt track soaks up the sun’s heat.

"These are professional athletes," he said. "They’re exerting all their energy, and everybody knows how tough it is to get that hot. Some of the horses just can’t cool down fast enough afterward."

PRAYING FOR RAIN

On the treeless, wind-swept Kansas prairie, the searing mix of sun and triple-digit heat is a recipe for agricultural disaster.

Some residents have taken to praying for rain and cooler temperatures in the sparsely populated western part of the state. Menlo farmer Brian Baalman can testify to that.

"Everybody is just sick of it. They just wish we would get a good rain," he said. "It has become a point to pray for it at church on Sunday, for sure."

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