The heat wave sweeping through the South has been blamed for at least 33 deaths this month and created potentially ruinous drought conditions.

Relentless sunshine has sent temperatures to record highs across the region, topping 100 degrees in some areas for the 10th straight day. Temperatures soared in Tennessee, where late-afternoon readings reached 109 in Smyrna, 105 in Clarksville and 103 in Nashville. Huntsville, Ala., North Little Rock, Ark., Bowling Green, Ky., and Woodward, Okla., also hit 103.

A 53-year-old man was found dead in his apartment Wednesday in Memphis, raising the number of heat-related deaths in that city to eight, officials said. One of them was a 67-year-old woman who was visiting the city for the 30th anniversary of Elvis Presley's death. She died Wednesday at a recreational vehicle park near Graceland.

So far this month, nine people have died from heat-related causes in Tennessee and Missouri each, while four apiece have died in Texas, Oklahoma and Georgia; and one apiece in Alabama, Kentucky and South Carolina. The Missouri Health Department said seven more heat-related deaths had been reported but not yet confirmed.

The Southern death toll does not include two illegal immigrants who were also believed to have succumbed to the heat after their bodies were found Thursday morning in the desert near Ocotillo, Ariz., NBC affiliate KYMA of Yuma reported.

Students, animals at risk

Alabama officials were considering alternatives to transporting students to schools on un-air-conditioned buses. The temperature inside one bus registered 122 degrees as it returned from its route Thursday afternoon in Montgomery, where the official high was 102.

"It's almost unbearable," the bus' driver, Kim Norman, told NBC affiliate WSFA. "I've had students with bloody noses and throwing up because of the heat."

The dog days of summer can also be a dangerous time for man's best friend. Montgomery animal control officials told WSFA that they were investigating the deaths of eight dogs, all of whom appeared to be victims of the heat.

"If a dog is out in the heat, it can dehydrate fast," Humane Officer Ron VanHerwyn said. "It's terrible for an animal."