Heat wave may worsen

Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Mike Maddox removed his hat to wipe away the sweat as he and Josh Garcia worked to lay rebar in the hot sun. "Drink lots of water. If you get too hot you sit down for awhile," said Garcia after working all day in the heat. (Aaron Eisenhauer)

Local public health officials have established several "cooling off spots" in Cape Girardeau as temperatures are expected to increase throughout the week.

Meteorologist Jim Packett with the National Weather Service in Paducah, Ky., said temperatures should reach the upper 90s with a heat index of 106 degrees on Thursday. "As the week progresses, it's going to get worse each day," Packett said.

The National Weather Service also has issued a hazardous weather outlook due to the increasingly high temperatures.

Public health officials are warning residents that heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke and possible death. Last year 25 Missourians died from heat-related causes, including three deaths in Southeast Missouri. There have been no reported deaths from the heat in 2006.

Communicable disease coordinator Carol Jordan, with the Cape Girardeau County Health Department, said the best method of protection from the heat is prevention. "Drink plenty of fluids," Jordan said. "It's going to be hot over the next few days."

The county health department advises people should remain in an air-conditioned location throughout the next few days. Several locations, including West Park Mall, the Cape Girardeau Public Library, the Salvation Army and the Osage Community Centre, are designated for residents who need to cool off.

The Salvation Army, 701 Good Hope St., will be open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, Major Beth Stillwell said. "Anyone is more than welcome to come in here to relax and have a place to cool off," she said.

Ameren UE donated 50 window air-conditioner units to the Southeast Missouri Area Agency on Aging at the beginning of July. Elderly residents who are Ameren customers are qualified to receive the free air-conditioners. Ruth Dockins, spokeswoman for the Area Agency on Aging, said there are several units available for seniors.

Public health officials also advise residents to wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing and to never leave a person or pet inside a parked vehicle.

Although anyone can suffer a heat-related illness, infants, young children and people 65 and older have a greater risk that others, Jordan said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

jfreeze@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 246

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