By ADRIAN SAINZ, MICHAEL GOLDBERG and JIM SALTER Associated Press
As dangerous heat and humidity smothered parts of the South and Midwest on Thursday, local governments
and charities worked to protect poor and elderly residents by opening cooling stations and delivering
donated air conditioners.
In Florida, where heat index levels of up to 112 degrees (44 Celsius) are forecast over the next
several days, the Christian Service Center set up an “extreme heat cooling center” in Orlando for
homeless people and others who don’t have access to air conditioning.
“You or I complain about the heat or have to deal with it as we walk from our car to the grocery store
or from our car to the air-conditioned office, but for the people we see here on campus, they wake up
to that every day,” Bryan Hampton of the Christian Service Center told WESH-TV.
The heat wave has contributed to at least 13 deaths in Texas and one in Louisiana. Forecasters said
temperatures could rocket up to 20 degrees above average in some areas as a heat dome that has taxed
the Texas power grid spread eastward.
The National Weather Service issued an excessive heat warning for parts of Arkansas, Louisiana,
Mississippi and Tennessee for Thursday and Friday. Less urgent heat advisories covered a wider area
that included parts of Missouri, Kansas, Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois. The heat index, which
indicates how hot it feels outdoors based on the temperature and relative humidity, was expected to
reach 115 degrees (46 Celsius) in several cities.
It was an added weather-related woe for some some Tennessee residents who still had no power after
storms Sunday knocked down trees and power lines.
To get some relief, John Manger, 74, and his wife were sitting in shady spots outside their sweltering
home in the Memphis suburb of Bartlett and taking cold showers.
“I just suck it up, with a washcloth, towel, whatever. I just sit in my chair by the window, and maybe
get a breeze,” said Manger, who is retired.
Their house was among more than 20,000 homes and business in Shelby County that were without
electricity as of Thursday morning. Local utility Memphis Light, Gas and Water said dozens of crews
were working to restore power.
The heat could also be dangerous for pets, officials warned. And for zoo animals.
“Obviously, we have some animals that love the heat and have no problems with 100 degrees at all,” said Sean Putney, director of the Kansas City Zoo. Those with less tolerance were led into shaded or air
conditioned areas, he said. “And we have a lot of animals that have access to water so they can cool
down. Our elephants, rhinos, they can go into a mud area and care of themselves with mud, give
themselves a little bit of relief.”
Louisiana already has been plagued by hot weather over the past month. Between May 12 and May 24, more
than 680 went to the hospital for heat-related illness, based on the most recent figures from the state
Department of Health. These illnesses can range in severity from mild, such as heat rash and heat
cramps, to severe, such as heat exhaustion and heatstroke.
A 49-year-old man died Sunday in Shreveport in the state’s second heat death of the year. Earlier in
June, a woman died in a house without power after a severe storm.
“This is very real and we need people, to not only take care of themselves, but also to look after
their neighbors — especially those who are older,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said Wednesday afternoon.
In St. Louis, where smoke from Canadian wildfires has combined with the heat and humidity to worsen air
quality, volunteers were taking donated window air conditioners to the elderly and needy, said Gentry
Trotter, who runs Cooldownstlouis.org.
Trotter recently went into the home of an 83-year-old woman, measured the indoor temperature and found
it was 105 degrees Fahrenheit (40.6 degrees Celsius). Still, she refused to accept an air conditioner.
“Somebody needs to convince her that if she doesn’t have a blasting air conditioner, she’s going to
die,” Trotter said.
Sainz reported from Memphis, Tennessee; Goldberg from Jackson, Mississippi; Salter from St. Louis,
Missouri. Associated Press reporters Curt Anderson in Miami, Sara Cline in Baton Rouge, Louisiana,
Nicholas Ingram in Kansas City, Missouri, and Kevin McGill in New Orleans also contributed.