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Heat wave sizzles the East for fourth day

As Richmond, Va., residents sweltered in 100-degree heat — just one degree short of a 1940 record — radio station WKHK played Christmas carols.
“The phones just went bananas,” said Jim Tice, the country-music station’s program director. “People really appreciated the cooling effect.”
Lower temperatures seemed light years away Wednesday as the East Coast soared into the upper 90s for a fourth straight day. The stubborn, dangerous heat wave sickened hundreds of people at the Boy Scout Jamboree in Virginia, forced the Navy to cancel battleship tours and kept workers in their air-conditioned offices.
At Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia, about 300 people — most of them Boy Scouts — fell ill while waiting for President Bush to arrive for the Jamboree.
Soldiers carried some on stretchers to the base hospital and others were airlifted out for treatment. Dozens were still being treated Wednesday night, Jamboree spokesman Gregg Shields said. Bush postponed his visit because of storms.
The Navy closed the USS Wisconsin, a battleship on display to the public in Norfolk, Va., when the temperature on the warship’s deck hit 120 degrees.
Delivery crews and street vendors were among the few people willing to stay out on the scorching streets.
“I drink tons and tons of water, I wear a wet towel around my neck when I drive and just deal with it,” said UPS driver Hugh Kovacs, 43, after making a delivery to a convenience store in Northfield, N.J.
Some relief arrived Wednesday evening as a strong cold front moved into the East.
In central Maryland, thunderstorms rumbled through the region, downing trees and cutting power to thousands of utility customers, even as it cooled temperatures.
Wednesday’s unofficial high temperature at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor was 99 degrees, but by 9 p.m., the temperature had dropped to 79.
The heat was blamed for at least 29 deaths in the Phoenix area; at least four in Missouri; two in New Jersey; two in Oklahoma and one each in Kentucky, Ohio and Mississippi.
The heat also was blamed for at least 1,200 cattle deaths in Nebraska.