Heat Wave Blamed for 106 Deaths
Heat Wave Blamed for 106 Deaths
Jul. 18, 1998
ADDISON, Texas (AP) _ Erica Turner was hot, flushed and sweaty Saturday in the area's 13th consecutive day of triple-digit heat. But she was outside voluntarily, one among 8,000 amateur volleyball players playing in a tournament Saturday in this Dallas suburb.
The heat wave had been blamed for at least 106 deaths. The majority of the deaths occurred in Texas, and more than half of those were illegal aliens trying to cross open desert and rangeland.
``You don't stay cool. There's no possible way,'' Ms. Turner, part of a team from Longview, said wearily while sitting in the shade with her teammates. ``You're out there thinking about how freaking hot it is.''
The volleyball tournament was one of several sports events that went on Saturday around Texas in spite of the heat. There also was a bicycle race in central Texas and a high school touch football championship at College Station.
The temperature in Dallas hit 100 during the early afternoon on its way toward a forecast high of 104. Along the border, Del Rio reached at least 106 and McAllen got to 101 by early afternoon.
Organizers of the volleyball tournament made frequent announcements reminding players to drink water and wear sunscreen. Ten doctors staffed a first aid station and tents were set up to shade spectators and players between matches.
Elsewhere in the heat belt, parts of normally hot Arizona got a break, of sorts, thanks to strong thunderstorms that blew through southern and central sections of the state during the night.
The storms, part of Arizona's annual monsoon season, brought in humidity and cloud cover that were expected to hold Phoenix temperatures to around 100, instead of Friday's high of 111.
But in the Colorado River Valley along the western edge of Arizona, the heat continued with the temperature at Lake Havasu City passing 99 degrees by 9 a.m.
``We spend as much time in the lake as we can,'' said Linda Drouillard, a clerk at Havasu Resort Springs and a longtime city resident. ``The heat is something that you have to get use to. The newcomers are a little intimidated by it. The tourists expect it.''
Scattered thunderstorms in Texas, however, have brought little relief. Highs across the state are still likely to hit 100 or more through Wednesday.
The heat was being blamed for the deaths of 78 people in Texas beginning in May. Of that total, 43 were illegal aliens, Border Patrol officials said.
``The heat started earlier this year. When I arrived the 27th of April, it was 108 degrees,'' said Carlton Jones, spokesman for the Border Patrol's Del Rio sector, which had 19 of the illegal immigrant deaths. ``Since then we've been trying to find out if we've had a dozen days it's been below 100 for a high.''
In addition to the heat, he said, the region's drought has dried up natural watering holes and also forced ranchers to sell their livestock, which means they no longer maintain artificial watering holes.
Jones also said Del Rio agents rescued about 30 illegal aliens from hot railroad freight cars last week, including 11 found near El Paso who were locked into one car without food or water.
``When we got them out, they were still breathing okay, but the train was going to be traveling two more days in that heat,'' he said.
If trains do get past border points carrying undocumented immigrants, he said, ``They're going to be opening these things up and finding bodies like crazy.''
The Border Patrol said Friday it is distributing a video to Mexican TV stations with footage of people who died in the hot weather while trying to cross the border, along with a warning: ``Mantente Fuera, Mantente Vivo'' _ ``Keep Out, Keep Alive.''
Elsewhere, at least 20 people had died of heat-related causes in Louisiana, six in Oklahoma and one each in California and Arizona since mid-May.
There was relief from the heat _ but it was far to the north.
Valdez, Alaska, chilled to a record low of 44 early Saturday. It lasted for just 15 minutes before warming back up to 45, the National Weather Service said.
And Colorado had a reminder of cooler times with hospitals from Denver to Pueblo reporting a surge in births, nine months after a blizzard piled snow up to 5 feet deep in the streets and kept people at home.
``We thought it was just our marketing, but we turned back the clock and found it coincided with the blizzard,'' said Sara Spaulding, spokeswoman for Swedish Medical Center in Denver, where births this month are up 18 percent.