From AP, staff reports
One of the worst heat waves to hit Indiana in 70 years tightened its grip on the state Tuesday, forcing communities to launch emergency plans and prompting utilities to plead for consumers to conserve electricity.
Hoosiers sweltered as the heat index reached 111 in Terre Haute and Shelbyville, 110 in Greenwood and 109 in Indianapolis, Peru and Greencastle. The highest temperature was in Mount Comfort, about 15 miles east of Indianapolis, at 99 degrees.
The temperature topped out at 95 degrees at the Decatur weather station, the fourth consecutive day of 90-plus degrees.
No hope for a cooldown is in sight. If anything, conditions could get worse in the Decatur area as the National Weather Service says we may see a high all the way up to 97 today, with a heat index as high as 106.
The numbers go up again for Thursday, with a high near 98 and a heat index around 109 predicted for this area.
Highs of 94 are forecast for Adams County on Friday and Saturday, and 93 for Sunday.
The heat wave seemed poised to be one for the record books. The National Weather Service predicted the temperature will average slightly above 85 degrees for the eight-day period that began July 17 and runs through Sunday. That would mark the first time the state has seen such a stretch since July 1941.
Residents and communities did their best to adapt.
In Bloomington, the Indiana University swim team suspended practice at the school’s outdoor pool because the water was too warm even at 6 a.m. In Fort Wayne, the Salvation Army offered donated fans and air conditioners to low-income people with critical medical conditions aggravated by the heat.
The city also began picking up trash an hour earlier Tuesday, starting at 5 a.m., to allow collectors to work when temperatures were cooler, The Journal Gazette reported.
Utilities braced for record consumption and urged customers to limit unnecessary electrical use.
Anderson Light and Power warned its 33,000 customers to expect random power outages because of transformers overheating. Nine have blown in the last eight days because of hot weather, WTHR-TV in Indianapolis reported.
‘‘The transformers overloaded because of the temperature. It doesn’t have time to cool and the oil inside of it gets hot and wants to boil and causes failure,’’ said Bruce Boerner, Anderson Light and Power.
The heat wave, which prompted the weather service to place most of Indiana under an excessive heat warning through Saturday, is hitting as counties across the state are hosting fairs. That has put people and animals in the weather’s crosshairs.
Jacky Masterson and her son lost two chickens to the heat Sunday at the LaPorte County 4-H Fair. They decided to mist the remaining birds to keep them cool.
‘‘If they get too hot, we have the kids take them home. They’re less stressed at home, but we try to come prepared and get ours all cooled down the best we can,’’ Masterson told WSBT-TV.
Officials across the state urged residents to take frequent breaks, drink plenty of fluids and watch for the health of others. Indianapolis officials activated an emergency plan that allows the Marion County Health Department to coordinate heat-relief efforts that included asking community centers to extend their hours to serve as cooling locations.
Indianapolis Animal Care and Control said it would pick up and take care of animals whose owners need to leave their homes after the city activated its heat emergency plan.
Jerry Kalal, owner of K.Dee’s Coffee in downtown Lafayette, said the heat was bad for business. He told WLFI-TV he plans to close at 2 p.m. from Wednesday through Friday to avoid the grind of the heat. That’s five hours earlier than usual.
‘‘When it gets above a certain temperature, people don’t normally think about coming to a coffee shop,’’ he said.