Heat wave death toll reaches 44
NASHVILLE, Tenn. ” An oppressive two-week heat wave in the Southeast and Midwest has killed at least 44 people, many who were elderly and living in homes without air-conditioning.
Authorities in Memphis reported 2 more heat-related deaths Saturday, bringing Tennessee’s total to 13.
The latest victims were a 74-year-old man found dead Saturday after working in his yard and a 60-year-old man found dead in his home late Friday. He had asthma, the Shelby County Medical Examiner’s Office said.
Medical Examiner Karen Chancellor warned that individuals with chronic respiratory or heart conditions should take special precautions during this heat wave.
The high temperature in Memphis was 101 on Saturday, according to the National Weather Service, and Sunday’s high could reach 102, despite earlier forecasts that weekend temperatures would dip slightly.
As of Saturday, Memphis has had nine straight days of triple-digit temperatures.
Mayor A C Wharton set up a heat wave phone line for people seeking services that can help them escape from the heat, including the locations of cooling centers and free fans for seniors.
The local health department said the city’s heat index ” a measure that factors in humidity to describe how hot it feels ” has broken 100 every day since June 27.
Health officials in Alabama said Friday that eight people there had died of heat-related causes this week and last week.
In Elmore County, an anonymous donor gave county schools 20,160 bottles of water Friday for children to drink on school buses that have no air conditioning.
“The kids were so thrilled. They were quiet on the buses and just sat in their seats and drank their water,” county schools spokeswoman Judy Caton said.
Emergency physicians warned that days of heat-related stress can lead to problems such as nausea, dizziness, headaches, cramps and vomiting for people who otherwise are healthy. Those symptoms are the first signs of heat exhaustion.
“It is a cumulative thing,” said Dr. Franc Fenaughty, an emergency room physician in the Memphis suburb of Germantown. “After four or five or six days you are going to see more people get dehydrated. And, the big problem is dehydration.”
In addition to the deaths in Tennessee and Alabama, nine have been confirmed in Missouri, four each in Arkansas and Georgia, three in Illinois, two in South Carolina and one in Mississippi.
Last summer, a heat wave killed at least 50 people in the Midwest and East.
California officially reported a death toll of 143, but authorities last month acknowledged the number may have been far higher. A 1995 heat wave in Chicago was blamed for 700 deaths.
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