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U.S. weather: Deadly beaches, grinding tornadoes, sweltering heat

Photo from CNN
Tuesday, June 11, 2013 - 7:00am

Summer has not yet officially arrived, but the country's midsection is burning up.

Denver broke a heat record Monday -- and Tuesday promises more sweltering heat.

Farther east in Baltimore, a storm threw down a tornado Monday, destroying houses and causing flash flooding. And on the Gulf Coast, rip currents have killed at least four.

Heat wave

On Monday, Denver broke its all-time heat record, when the temperature climbed to 99 degrees Fahrenheit, and the sun is expected to bake the Colorado capital again on Tuesday.

That's nearly a cool spell for residents in parts of northern Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma, where temperatures are expected to break 100 degrees.

Many parts of all four states are suffering from extreme drought, and the National Weather Service has issued numerous fire weather warnings.

The service warns that winds will be high, and any fires that start in the parched landscape could spread with extreme speed.

Gulf drownings

Treacherous currents took at least four lives on the Alabama Gulf Coast and led Florida officials to shut down a popular beach.

Dawn Wood had a friendly chat with two vacationers sitting on the beach next her in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Minutes later, she watched as one of them, a 62-year-old man, drowned, after a rip current pulled him away from the beach, CNN affiliate WPMI reported.

His 13-year-old granddaughter, who was swept out with him, tried to drag him from the waves, Wood said.

She didn't have the strength.

Rescuers in boats rushed to save them, but "it was just a little too late for him, unfortunately," Wood told WPMI.

He was one of at least four who died in the currents off the Alabama coast since Sunday.

In spite of the drownings and red flag warnings on the beach, people continued to swim, including small children.

Two deputies from the sheriff's office in Bay County, Florida, struggled to save a swimmer who became exhausted fighting the current, after being whisked out by the waves.

The county was inundated with "water related calls" for help Monday, eventually posting double red flag warnings on Panama City Beach, closing it to swimmers to protect them from the currents.

Beachgoers entering the water in spite of the warning risk arrest.

Eastern tornadoes

Thunderstorms spawned a handful of twisters in Maryland and Kentucky, destroying homes.

A funnel cloud in Baltimore was caught on video and made a formidable impression on YouTube. Aside from tearing a hole in a roof of a warehouse in the city's port, it did little damage.

A few miles to the west in Sykesville, the violent rumble of wind compelled Dennis Davison to have a look outside, he told CNN affiliate WBAL. He opened his front door to watch pieces of a garage ascend into the sky.

"There is no doubt in my mind that was a tornado," he told WBAL. The weather service confirmed two twisters in his area.

Baltimore motorists gingerly cruised through streets filled with flood waters left by heavy rains, and more is in the forecast for Tuesday. Flood warnings extend from Washington, DC, up into Philadelphia and New Jersey.

Racing away in his pickup truck, Steve Adair tried to outrun what may have been a tornado in southern Kentucky, according to CNN affiliate WTVF.

The storm caught up with him.

"You just see a bunch of debris in the air and wind started blowing hard," he said, while standing in the ruins of his destroyed countryside home. "It's just amazing to me how a little bit of wind can do all of this."

Nearby, two elderly women hunkered down in a bathtub, while the storm destroyed their home.

They survived.

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