Relief from heat expected Thursday

Wednesday, August 2, 2006

With 20 pounds of mail strapped to his waist Tuesday, U.S. Postal Service carrier Mark Smith delivered letters in a sweltering St. Louis neighborhood where more than 1,000 homes and businesses were without electricity.

"I can't think of many hotter days than this," said Smith, 51, a 24-year veteran of the Postal Service. "I just drink this ice water and think about retirement."

Smith hit his four-mile route about 30 minutes earlier than usual Tuesday to beat the heat, but with a shortage of mail carriers, he still has to work 12-hour days, he said.

Tuesday was another sweltering day, with temperatures reaching above 100 for the second straight day in some parts of the state.

In St. Louis, two power outages had residents steaming. Hundreds were still without power and air conditioning by Tuesday afternoon after a car took out an utility poll in a south St. Louis area where Smith delivered.

The first outage began Monday night when two transformers blew out, leaving 11,000 Ameren Corp. customers in the dark for a short period of time.

That outage has not been officially blamed on the heat. Ameren officials have urged residents to conserve energy by raising thermostat settings a degree or two and avoiding unnecessary electrical usage, but said there was adequate generation capacity to handle the hot temperatures.

National Weather Service meteorologist Butch Dye said relief would come Thursday. Relief means highs in the lower 90s with storms -- possibly severe -- possible in many parts of the state.

For today, 100-degree temperatures were again forecast for much of central and western Missouri, with a heat index -- what the temperature feels like with humidity factored in -- again expected to climb to 105 degrees, the Weather Service said.

The Cape Girardeau area saw temperatures soar to 93 degrees Tuesday, but the heat index pushed it to the high 90s, according to the National Weather Service.

Today could see a heat index as high as 106 degrees in and around Cape Girardeau, and a low tonight of 75. Like the St. Louis area, Cape Girardeau would also see a slight break in temperatures going into the weekend due to a storm front, Weather Service meteorologist David Blanchard said.

Fifteen deaths statewide have been blamed on the heat wave that began July 12, said Lori Harris-Franklin, a spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

Eight of the deaths were in the St. Louis area, four in Jackson County and three in outstate Missouri.

Harris-Franklin said more than 950 illnesses statewide have been blamed on the heat, more than 500 of them in St. Louis city or county.

Southeast Missourian writer Kyle W. Morrison contributed to this report.

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