Heat Wave Claims at Least 14 Deaths
Aug. 03, 2006
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) _ The searing heat wave that scorched the East and Midwest for nearly a week tormented beachgoers Thursday before finally breaking, leaving behind scattered power outages and at least 14 deaths.
More than a dozen states, from Georgia to Connecticut, were under heat warnings as temperatures rose into the 90s or higher for at least the third consecutive day. The early afternoon temperature in Virginia Beach was 97 degrees, but the humidity made it feel like 111.
The mercury climbed to 96 in New York City and Philadelphia, 94 in Boston and 98 in Baltimore. Some relief was expected after nightfall, when temperatures were forecast to fall into the upper 80s, with drier air.
Since Sunday, authorities have confirmed that heat played a role in at least 16 deaths in the Midwest and East, plus one in Oklahoma and one in Arkansas. Heat was suspected in at least eight other deaths.
In Illinois, at least six heat-related deaths were confirmed this week in Cook County, and police believe another six deaths on Wednesday could be heat-related.
But the relatively few deaths in Chicago provided evidence that the city had learned from its experience in 1995, when a similar heat wave killed more than 700 people in four days, said Eric Klinenberg, who wrote ``Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago,'' after the 1995 heat wave.
``I would say Chicago has become a national leader for heat emergency planning,'' said Klinenberg, a New York University sociologist. He said there were electronic billboards on major roads, public service announcements throughout the day on local media and the city checked on thousands of vulnerable residents and provided transportation to cooling centers.
But Klinenberg said the heat wave that earlier left more than 160 people dead in California is evidence that many other communities are not prepared to do what it takes to protect residents.
``Most cities only take heat waves seriously when they are experiencing their own disaster first hand and usually the responsiveness comes too late,'' he said.
In New Jersey, authorities in Newark confirmed that two elderly people found dead in their home Thursday had died because of the hot weather. Relatives told New York's WABC-TV that both had mental problems and kept their windows closed out of fear of intruders. The home had a fan, but no air conditioning.
In northern Indiana, heat killed an inmate at the mostly un-air-conditioned Indiana State Prison and contributed to the death of another, officials said Thursday.
Four deaths were reported in Maryland, including three elderly victims who did not have air conditioning, officials said. In Pennsylvania, a 74-year-old custodian was found dead in bed, his heart disease aggravated by the heat. In Oklahoma, a 92-year-old man found near his car Tuesday died of heat-related causes.
Temperatures fell Thursday in Chicago and Detroit, and cooler air should arrive by Friday in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states.
But along the Virginia Beach oceanfront, the sand was still too hot to trod barefoot. Edward Landry joined hundreds of other vacationers lounging beneath giant umbrellas.
``It's tolerable as long as you're around some water and the breeze is blowing somewhat and you can get wet,'' said Landry, 39, who drank bottled beer as his wife rubbed sunscreen on his back.
Kristy Landry, 35, was less forgiving of the weather during the couple's trip, which included stops all over the hot East Coast. ``The humidity is horrible,'' she said. ``I knew it was going to be humid, but it's sweltering.''
Consolidated Edison, the utility that serves much of the New York metropolitan area, said underground electrical problems on Manhattan's East side left 22,400 people without power. On Long Island, 12,000 people were in the dark.
Thousands of customers in downtown Stamford, Conn., lost power after demand caused some underground lines to catch fire and put others at risk of extensive damage. Some businesses were evacuated.
In New Jersey, Gov. Jon S. Corzine waived admission fees at 13 of the state's swimming areas Thursday.
In New York, the heat was not unusual for Iman Arbab, 57, a native of Sudan who sells newspapers from a crate outside Pennsylvania Station in Manhattan.
``For me, 100 degrees _ it's normal,'' Arbab said Thursday morning.
But even he admitted he was getting a little fed up. ``When you're young, you don't feel it,'' Arbab said. ``When you get old, you feel it.''
Associated Press writers Daniela Flores in Trenton, N.J.; Sam Spies in Raleigh, N.C.; Desmond Butler in New York; Don Babwin in Chicago; and Sean Murphy in Oklahoma City contributed to this report.