Heat wave deaths in U.S. reaches 13
The heat wave blasting the U.S. midsection was blamed for more deaths and triggered alarms along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Tue, Jul 19, 2011 at 07:35 PM
SPLASH: Jon Grucz dives off a dock through a tube on Whitmore Lake in Whitmore Lake, Mich. on July 19, 2011. The intense heat of sweeping across the central U.S. has people looking to cool of anyway they can. (Photo: ZUMA Press)
CHICAGO - The stubborn heat wave blasting the U.S. midsection was blamed on Tuesday for more deaths and triggered alarms along the U.S.-Mexico border, where immigrants crossing illegally faced harsh conditions.
Two men appeared to have died while tending to yards. The core body temperature of a 65-year-old man who died on Monday while mowing his lawn near Wichita, Kansas, was 107 degrees, Butler County Sheriff Kelly Herzet said.
"It's tragic," Herzet said. "People need to stay in when it's this hot, or drink plenty of liquids. They need to know their limits."
It was a similar story about 65 miles away in Blackwell, Oklahoma, where a 70-year-old man last seen walking down a street pushing a lawnmower was found unresponsive. He died at the hospital. His body temperature was at least 108 degrees, according to police.
"This is a guy you would see out all the time in all different weather," said Blackwell Fire Chief Tom Beliel. "It's just unfortunate."
Heat, the leading weather-related killer in the United States, has resulted in at least 13 deaths across the Midwest since last week, the National Weather Service reported.
High temperatures were also responsible for an alarming spike in deaths of illegal immigrants trying to cross into the United States, according to the U.S. Border Patrol. It did not say, however, exactly how many had died due to weather.
"Cases of dehydration and heat exhaustion are way up," said supervisory agent Dan Milian, with the Rio Grande Valley sector in Edinburg, Texas.
As a result, the patrol deployed search and rescue units in the south Texas brush country.
Power uses surges
Across the Midwest, there were jaw-dropping heat indexes — measured as a combination of temperature and humidity. It felt like 131 degrees in Knoxville, in central Iowa, and 124 in Freeport, Illinois, the Weather Service said.
"This is completely out of whack for the Upper Midwest," said Chris Vaccaro, a Weather Service spokesman. "We've got several more days on tap" of excessive heat.
The heat also set new peak records for electricity usage.
Xcel Energy, which serves 1.64 million customers in North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Minnesota, broke a demand record on Monday with 9,504 megawatts of power used, said Tom Hoen, a company spokesman. The old record set in August 2010 was 9,100 megawatts.
Utility companies in Iowa also reported record usage and said they could top those records again on Tuesday.
Parts of 32 states plus Washington, D.C., were under heat advisories, warnings or watches as the heat wave expanded eastward. Actual temperatures in Washington, D.C. and New York were expected to flirt with 100 degrees in the coming days.
In Omaha, Nebraska, flood control work along the overflowing Missouri River was halted due to the heat, as officials worried that filling sandbags was too strenuous.
In Illinois, the second-largest corn and soybean producing state, the heat and humidity were not yet damaging crops, according to University of Illinois agronomist Emerson Nafziger. But a lack of rain was cause for concern.
"Corn is holding on so far," Nafziger said. "We're starting to get a little worried right now from a water standpoint."
(Additional reporting by Jim Forsyth, Kim Palmer, David Hendee, Kevin Murphy, Steve Olafson and Karen Brooks; Writing by Karin Matz; Editing by Andrew Stern and Jerry Norton)
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