Scattered thunderstorms are expected to continue throughout the night, eventually cooling down the sweltering temperatures that prompted government warnings to be on guard for heat exhaustion.
A severe thunderstorm watch will remain in effect until midnight for Allegheny, Beaver, Fayette, Greene, Washington and Westmoreland counties, the National Weather Service in Moon said tonight.
After a day of high heat, rain began to fall in the early evening, causing a delay in the Pirates game against San Francisco at PNC Park. Play resumed shortly before 5:30 p.m.
Duquesne Light received reports of "a few scattered outages" in the South Hills because of the storm, but did not see widespread damage, spokesman Joe Vallarian said.
Also, a few houses in Bloomfield are without power tonight after a transformer overloaded, and the mineral oil inside caused damage to nearby houses, Mr. Vallarian said. He said Duquesne crews are working to restore service to that area as well.
Scattered storms are expected to linger until tomorrow evening, when cooler, drier air will take hold.
By 4:45 p.m., storms hit New Castle, where several trees were down, according to Weather Service meteorologist Bob Coblentz.
The rain should be the end of the extreme heat, which has hung over the Pittsburgh area for the last 10 days, said Mr. Coblentz.
Earlier, the Weather Service issued an excessive heat warning. The temperature, which hit 99 at 3:30 p.m, was dropping as the storms rolled in. It was 94 by 5 p.m. The heat index, which takes into account both temperature and humidity, was well above 100 today in areas of Western Pennsylvania and Northern West Virginia.
The combination of high temperatures and high humidity made heat stroke, heat exhaustion and other heat-related illnesses more likely, according to the Weather Service.
"By tomorrow you'll notice a difference after the front moves through," Mr. Coblentz said.
Next week, temperatures will stay in the low 80s, "where they belong," he added.
Despite the extreme heat here, Pittsburgh was cooler today than many areas east and west of the region, some of which still lack electricity after storms last week.
Temperatures of more than 100 degrees were forecast in Philadelphia, where two heat-related deaths were reported, and excessive heat warnings were issued for several states in the Midwest as the days of smothering heat piled on, accompanied by severe storms that have knocked out power in spots from Michigan to the East Coast.
Most notable was last weekend's sudden and severe storm that drenched the mid-Atlantic region, where thousands remained without electricity a week later. Hundreds of thousands remained without power Saturday, mostly in West Virginia, Ohio and Michigan.
At least 24 deaths have been blamed on the heat and several others on the weather or a combination of the two.
Record temperatures were set in several places, including Indianapolis, Washington and Milwaukee. In central Arkansas, Russellville reached 106 degrees Friday, breaking a record set in
Nine people in Maryland have died of heat-related causes in recent days, state officials said. Authorities in Chicago said heat was a factor in six deaths there, mostly among older people. Three deaths in Wisconsin, two in Tennessee and three in Pennsylvania also
were reported to be heat-related.
Philadelphia Health Department spokesman Jeff Moran said today that two men were found Friday and their deaths were confirmed to have been due to heart disease and heat exposure. A previous death also was attributed to heat.
In Ohio, a man in his 70s and two women -- one in her late 60s, the other in her 80s -- were found dead this week, said Dr. Jeff Lee, a deputy county coroner in the central part of the state. He said all three were suffering from heart disease but died from stress caused by high temperatures in their houses. Temperatures inside were stifling, recorded in the 90s in two cases, with windows shut and no ventilation. The houses lacked electricity because of recent power outages.
"If they had gotten cooling, we would have expected them to survive," he said.
Forecasters expected the coming cold front to bring relief, but more severe weather, too.
The rain should help dry spells in many places. Much of Arkansas is enduring brown grass and seeing trees lose their green, and farmers in Ohio are growing concerned about the dry conditions, considered among the worst of the past decade.
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The Associated Press and staff writer Liz Navratil contributed. Marcus Schwarz: email@example.com or 412-263-1964. First Published July 7, 2012 3:45 PM