Heat, humidity settle over Missouri

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Associated Press WriterST. LOUIS (AP) -- Ted Klos kept a wary eye to the sky Wednesday as he poured a concrete sidewalk on the Washington University campus. The sun was about to emerge from behind a tree, and this was no day to work on a tan.

"The bad part is we haven't had any heat for a while, and when it hits all at once you can't get used to it," Klos said.

Yes, heat and humidity are part of life in Missouri in late July, but that doesn't mean it isn't dangerous.

Temperatures were in the 90s by noon, and expected to top out in the mid- to upper-90s. Similar weather was forecast for most of the state for Thursday before cooling on Friday.

Both the National Weather Service and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services issued heat advisories. Jon Carney of the Weather Service's St. Louis area office said the advisory comes when the heat index -- how the weather feels based on combined heat and humidity -- tops 105 degrees. The more serious heat warning is issued when the heat index reaches 115 degrees. The heat index Wednesday was expected to be 110 to 114 degrees.

"You must make sure you really listen to your body," Carney said. "If you start to feel weak or get a headache, get inside immediately and get some water.

"If you stop sweating and you're outside, that's a really bad sign," Carney said. "That's a really dangerous situation and you might have heat stroke. You could die from it very quickly."

The state health department urged Missourians to check on elderly relatives and neighbors. Young children and pets should not be left unattended in the heat.

Two heat-related deaths have been reported in Missouri this year, along with 36 heat-related illnesses.

Nine people were hospitalized Tuesday after they were overcome with heat while waiting in line outdoors for President Bush's appearance at the Family Arena in St. Charles, a St. Louis suburb. Others were treated at the scene.

So far this summer, the extreme heat has come only in short doses -- a suffocating day or two followed by a cool-down. Larry Kettelhut of the St. Louis Health Department said it is the unbroken string of hot days that are more worrisome.

The city partners with private companies on Operation Weather Survival, which promotes awareness and provides low-interest loans for home upgrades such as purchasing air conditioners. The program began following the summer of 1980, when a heat wave killed 113 St. Louisans.

Jean Jackson, spokeswoman for the St. Patrick Center, St. Louis' largest provider of services for the homeless, said volunteers were making an extra effort to get homeless people to shelters, at least during the heat of the afternoon.

Jackson said those living on the street are at a particularly high risk.

"So hot, and so in need of hydration," she said.

Cooler weather appears to be on the way. A cold front was expected to arrive in northern Missouri on Thursday, though the rest of the state was expected to remain in the 90s that day. But by Friday, highs throughout Missouri should top out in the 80s, with lower humidity, Carney said.

At Frozen Assets, an ice cream shop in St. Louis' Central West End, owner Ira Price was serving treats to bigger-than-normal crowds -- most of whom were eating inside.

The weather was unpleasant, but Price wasn't sweating it.

"I've been here 32 years -- it's been a lot hotter," he said.

------The AP's Stephanie V. Siek contributed information for this article.

------On the Net:

Missouri Health Department: http://www.dhss.mo.gov/ColdAndHeat/CandH...

St. Louis Health Department: http://stlouis.missouri.org/citygov/heal...

National Weather Service-St. Louis: http://www.crh.noaa.gov/lsx/

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