Area woman dies from heat

Friday, August 17, 2007

The heat wave claimed the life of a local woman Wednesday, Cape Girardeau County Coroner John Clifton said.

The Associated Press reported the deaths of as many as 16 people statewide were blamed on the blistering temperatures. As of Thursday, nine heat deaths had been confirmed; another seven were blamed on the heat but not yet confirmed, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

The local death, that of an 81-year-old Cape Girardeau woman, occurred following a family outing at Lake Boutin at Trail of Tears State Park, Clifton said Thursday morning.

The woman's death was heat-related and no autopsy was necessary, Clifton said.

The woman, whose name has not been released, was picnicking with her family at the park for several hours when she decided to move into the shade. Late in the afternoon, relatives checked on her and found her unresponsive, Clifton said.

They took her to Cape Girardeau Fire Department Station No. 3, where an ambulance was called, Clifton said. Paramedics took her to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead on arrival.

Her death has been ruled accidental, and the formal cause was cardiac arrest due to heat exhaustion.

The heat was just too much for the woman, Clifton said. Afternoon temperatures Wednesday peaked at 102 degrees around 4 p.m. The heat index at that time was between 107 and 110 degrees.

The Cape Girardeau Fire Department responded to just one heat-related medical emergency Thursday, plus the death Wednesday, said battalion chief Mike Ramsey.

The Jackson Fire Department had no heat-related calls this week, said paramedic Greg Hecht.

The last death blamed on a heat wave in Cape Girardeau occurred July 29, 2005. Three heat-related deaths occurred in July 2005.

To prevent heat-related injuries, Cape Girardeau County Public Health Center nurse Jane Wernsman advised people to take symptoms of heat exhaustion seriously. Those symptoms include dizziness, mood swings and weakness.

The American Red Cross has designated the Osage Community Centre as a community heat relief center, where people can go to escape the sweltering temperatures, said Heather Birk, spokeswoman for the community center. The center is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and from noon to 9 p.m. Sunday.

Thursday was the 22nd consecutive day of highs above 90 degrees. The temperature hit 103 degrees, the high for the year and the highest temperature for Aug. 16 since 1988. A heat advisory was in effect but was lifted in the late afternoon when a cooler front moved in.

Around 6 p.m., thunderstorms broke a 17-day drought and dropped temperatures as low as 90 degrees.

The Associated Press and staff writer Rudi Keller contributed to this report.

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