The mantra of the midsummer meltdown has become a command: Slow down.

Texas officials are urging people to check up on the sick and the elderly, while deputies travel remote neighborhoods with water and fans in an effort to prevent more heat-related deaths.

Temperature rose into the 90s before noon today in northern Texas and afternoon highs were expected to give Dallas its 16th straight day of temperatures above 100.

Two more heat-related deaths were confirmed Monday in Texas, boosting the state's heat-related death toll to 81. That includes 43 illegal aliens who have died after crossing the border into inhospitable terrain of southern Texas.

The heat has also contributed to at least 22 deaths in Louisiana, 11 in Oklahoma and one each in California, Arizona and Missouri. Combined with the deaths in Texas, that means 117 people have died of heat-related causes.

The deadly heat was forcing nearly everyone to take it easy.

In Lawton, Okla., Army trainees at Fort Sill must rest for 30 minutes every hour. Road work was at a standstill in Nebraska, where temperatures reached 107 in some parts on Monday.

``You can't work yourself too hard,'' said James Harris, a highway supervisor working south of Nashville, Tenn. ``You take a break and get in the truck awhile and get some air conditioning. Taking a long lunch helps, too.''

In eastern Oklahoma, fans and mist-sprayers ran full blast at poultry houses to keep birds cool.

``When the temperature reaches 90 degrees or above in the house, the birds begin to stress,'' poultry farmer Marinell Strain said. ``When it reaches above 95 degrees, they begin to die.''

In humid Illinois, Illinois Power temporarily had to ask its 550,000 customers conserve electricity by setting air-conditioning thermostats to 80 degrees or higher or turning the units off. The request was rescinded today after a generator that had been off line was restored to service, the utility said.

In drought-stricken South Carolina, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman visited Clayton Lowder Jr.'s 2,000-acre Sumter County farm of stunted cotton and blackened corn.

Glickman assured farmers he would help find a better way to protect them from natural disasters, suggesting a mix of crop insurance and traditional disaster assistance.

In Richmond, Va., 17-year-old Derek Myer had enough of house painting and went for a cool soak in the James River. The heat was just too much, he said.

``It takes all your energy away,'' Myer said.