2011 heat wave not the hottest in US history, not by a long shot

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Many Americans across the US were feeling the heat Monday, but how hot is it? The National Weather Service issued heat-related advisories for residents in 17 states, forecasting temperatures close to 100 degrees F. in the central and southern plains, and the middle and lower Mississippi Valley. In some parts of those regions, it will feel as hot as 115 degrees. Conditions are expected to continue into Tuesday.

So far, the heat wave at hand is nowhere near as severe as the worst recorded since 1980, when the National Climate Data Center began compiling such data. Here is a look at the five deadliest US heat waves/droughts since then.

#5 Spring and summer 2000

About 140 people died during a heat wave and drought throughout the spring and summer of 2000, report officials with the National Climate Data Center. South-central and southeastern states were hit the hardest. Losses in agriculture and related industries topped $4.8 billion. During the heat wave, some areas experienced as many as 20 more days than usual of temperatures above 90 degrees F.

#4 Summer 1998

At least 200 deaths and as much as $11.3 billion in damages ensued after a severe heat wave struck the nation, particularly the swath from Texas and Oklahoma eastward to North and South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. Cattle died and crops withered, as ranchers and farmers experienced particularly heavy financial losses. The same summer made the record books for severe flooding in China and other parts of the United States; hurricane Bonnie, meanwhile, struck North Carolina and Virginia. The combined worldwide death toll that summer exceeded 3,000....

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