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Death Toll From Heat At 23; Another Train Derails

July 15, 1995

An oppressive heat wave that derailed trains in the Midwest settled over the East on Friday, sending people to penguin exhibits and tanning salons in search of relief.

At least 23 deaths were blamed on the 100-degree temperatures and humidity, many of them in homes without air conditioning.

``All you want to do is take your clothes off,″ said Melissa Dougherty, a 33-year-old New York marketing researcher as she walked to work in black stockings and an olive green suit and the temperature in the mid-90s.

The National Weather Service blamed the extreme heat on a high pressure system that was slowly moving east from the western Great Plains. Forecasters said the heat wave would last through the weekend.

Chattanoogans opened fire hydrants to help youngsters cool off and the Tennessee Valley Authority churned out electricity at a record pace for a third consecutive day as people kept their air conditioners revving.

Deserted parks and playgrounds were as much a testament to the heat in Wichita, Kan., as the packed swimming pools.

Reggie Billups, manager of Waves of Fun in Hurricane, W.Va., said attendance at the park’s wave pool has averaged about 1,000 each day, about 25 percent above normal.

``We’ve been wall-to-wall this whole week,″ Billups said.

In Washington, President Clinton gave a speech in the sunny courtyard of CIA headquarters, and noted that some in the crowd had sought refuge in the shade.

``I can’t help thinking here at the Central Intelligence Agency that if we were giving intelligence awards today, they would go to the people back there under the trees,″ Clinton said.

Sixteen of 53 train cars derailed in Athens, Ohio, about 70 miles southeast of Columbus, because temperatures in the 90s caused the track to shift 14 inches.

Several hundred residents were evacuated briefly because one of the cars leaked a small amount of dimethylformamide, a combustible solvent, said Conrail spokeswoman Christine Wagner.

Earlier this week, a freight train derailed near Nebraska City, Neb., because the rail buckled in the heat.

The simmering weather claimed a seventh life Friday in Missouri, and throughout the Midwest, numerous other people sought treatment from the oppressive combination of heat and humidity.

The weather was the prime suspect in five deaths in Milwaukee and two more Chicagoans died of heat stroke Friday, bringing the toll there to four.

Kentucky and Iowa authorities each reported two heat-related deaths while officials in Texas, Nebraska and Indiana each reported one.

Record highs included 102 in Green Bay, Wisc., 100 in Boston and 96 in Portland, Maine.

And not just humans were suffering.

Turkey growers for Jerome Foods of Barron, Wisc., reported losses of about 15,000 birds so far, spokeswoman Cheryl Forehand said. Some were asking firefighters to mist the birds to keep them cool.

Marshall Dead Stock Removal in southeastern Wisconsin has been picking up 300 carcasses a day since Wednesday, manager Joe Merrick said.

``It’s extremely bad,″ Merrick said. ``Worse than winter. We’re talking cows, horses, calves and pigs.″

In Newport News, Va., Mac’s Heating and Cooling was jumping Friday with calls from people who said their air conditioners weren’t working.

``The weather gets hot and the people get cranky,″ office manager Pam Truston said. ``They take it out on us, especially when you tell them you can’t get to them till tomorrow.

Blanche Burrell, 84, of rural New Kent County, Va., kept cool with a new electric fan given her as part of a program for the elderly.

``I don’t put it on the highest speed all the time. I’ll have to turn it up ... when it gets hotter,″ said Mrs. Burrell, who kept cool by sipping juice and ice water.

At Birmingham, Ala.-area tanning salons, business was booming as people sought that bronzed look without any of the sweat.

``The heat will smother you outside. In here, the fans are on you and you’re not as hot,″ college student Tracy Motley said, adding: ``There’s no bugs!″

At New York’s Central Park Zoo, the penguins were the big attraction. Their frigid house was so crowded that, for a while, there was a line to get inside.

``Oooh, it’s cool in here,″ said Shaashia Nix, who was with her 4-year-old daughter and 5-month-old son. Looking at the crowd around her, she added, ``Everyone had the same idea we had.″

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