"We're a little crankier than normal," the 50-year-old stay-at-home dad said as his children, ages 3, 7 and 8, splashed in swimming lessons.
For others, getting relief has meant stepping away from work. John Rohlfing, 38, a construction worker in North Aurora, Ill., started working on a new house Thursday at 6 a.m., but he had to quit by 11 a.m. when temperatures hit 99 degrees.
"It's very dangerous in this heat, no questions about it," he said. "And when I start to feel bad I just stop."
The heat has also taken a toll on agriculture.
Dean Hines, the owner of Hines Ranch Inc. in the western Wisconsin town of Ellsworth, said he found one of his 80 dairy cows dead Thursday, an apparent victim of the heat. He said he was worried about the rest of his herd, in terms of death toll, reproductive consequences and milk production.
"We're using fans and misters to keep them cool," he said. "It's been terrible. When it doesn't cool down at night, the poor animals don't have a chance to cool down."
Associated Press writers Carla Johnson in Chicago, Robert Ray in North Aurora, Ill., Heather Hollingsworth in Kansas City, Mo., Martiga Lohn in St. Paul, Minn., and Corey Williams in Detroit contributed to this report.
Dinesh Ramde can be reached at dramde(at)ap.org.