Citing the human toll of this summer's heat wave in much of the United States, President Clinton on Thursday ordered the release of $100 million in emergency funds to help people pay for air conditioners, fans and other means of relief.

"In times of human crisis we have an obligation to act," Clinton said during an appearance in the White House briefing room. He said the $100 million would go to people in the 11 hottest Southern and Western states."This is an especially difficult time," Clinton said, noting that the summer of 1998 is on track to being the hottest on record.

"All Americans have been deeply concerned and troubled by the human toll of the record heat wave that has spread across many parts of the United States," the president added. "This scorching heat shows no signs of abating."

Cooler temperatures - still in the 80s and 90s - were forecast for Thursday across parts of the Plains, South and Northeast. And in northern Texas, where the heat wave has been centered for more than two months, temperatures may drop below 100 this weekend.

But on Wednesday, the record-setting heat kept a stranglehold on much of the country, from New England to the Southwest. It is blamed for 133 deaths.

Since the heat began in mid-May, at least 87 people have died in Texas, 26 in Louisiana, 13 in Oklahoma, three in Missouri, two in Pennsylvania and one death each in California and Arizona.

Dallas hit 102 degrees Wednesday, the 17th day in a row with temperatures over 100. Record highs were also set at Dulles Airport near Washington, D.C., at 98 degrees and at Atlantic City, N.J., which hit 96.

At the White House, Clinton also announced spokesman Mike McCurry will step down in the fall. Deputy spokesman Joe Lockhart was named to succeed McCurry.

McCurry did not reveal his plans. He said he would like to teach. He said he would remain at the White House until Congress adjourns.