Dozens die as heat wave strikes South, Midwest

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Unrelenting heat that has baked the Midwest and South for the past 10 days has killed more than three dozen people, authorities said as they reminded people to stay cool and drink plenty of water.

In Tennessee, the Shelby County medical examiner’s office confirmed yesterday that heat caused the death of a 53-year-old man found in his apartment the day before, bringing the death toll in Memphis alone to eight.

In all, 37 deaths in the South and Midwest have been confirmed as heat-related, and heat is suspected in 10 more, authorities said.

In Memphis, the mercury topped out at 105 degrees yesterday, a record and the seventh consecutive day of triple-digit temperatures. Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton Jr. compared the heat wave to a devastating earthquake and set up a hotline for people to report concerns and request fans.

“This is pretty akin to a seismic event in the sense that there is no remedy, no solution that we here in this room can come up with that will take care of everybody,” he said.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services said yesterday that the heat caused nine deaths there and likely caused another seven. Six of the nine confirmed deaths are in St. Louis.

Eight deaths were confirmed in Illinois, four each in Arkansas and Georgia, two in South Carolina and one in Mississippi, as well as one death in Tennessee outside Memphis.

In north-central Arkansas, the temperature reached 112 degrees on Wednesday in a place called Evening Shade.

“It’s miserable,” said Sharp County Judge Larry Brown, the county’s chief administrative officer. Road crews were working shorter hours, “coming in early and leaving at noon. By then it’s already way over 100 anyway,” Brown said.

In Alabama, state climatologist John Christy said the string of 10 consecutive days of triple-digit temperatures is amazing. Fifty-four people were treated in Alabama hospitals Wednesday and yesterday for heat-related illnesses, State Health Officer Don Williamson said.