"Temperatures Remain in Triple Digits; Dallas Declares Public Health Emergency"
By CHRISTY LEMIRE, The Associated Press
DALLAS (July 14. 1998) (AP) - It's not religion that's packing them in at the Catholic Charities center near downtown, it's the air conditioning.
About 100 senior citizens have flocked to the center daily to escape temperatures that have been in the triple digits for weeks. The heat has killed at least 16 people in Dallas County and at least 23 statewide in the hottest weather to hit the state since 1980.
Other states, including Louisiana, Oklahoma and New Mexico, also are sweltering.
"The air conditioning in my bedroom went out yesterday. It's like you're going into a steam room," said 78-year-old Annie Dennis of Dallas, who ate lunch at the Catholic Charities center Tuesday and carries a water bottle wherever she goes. ''All my plants at home have died. I'm so weak, and I'm a diabetic.''
With continued heat and little rain forecast for the rest of the week, relief is nowhere in sight.
Dallas hit 100 degrees Tuesday afternoon - 10 degrees less than Sunday's high. Fort Worth reached 112 on Sunday.
Tuesday was the 9th straight day that north Texas temperatures climbed to 100 degrees or higher.
In 1980 Dallas recorded 26 days of 100-degree heat by July 13, said National Weather Service meteorologist Bob Owen in Fort Worth.
That year, there were 69 days of 100 degrees or more. July's average high temperature at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport is 96.5 degrees Fahrenheit, the National Weather Service said.
This summer, however, high readings in July have averaged 101.7.
Many of those who died from the heat already had heart disease or another medical condition. Ten of the victims were older than 60, and all but four died in homes where air conditioners were broken or turned off.
And not only is Texas hot, it's dry. Economists at the Texas Agricultural Extension Service estimated Tuesday the current drought will cause $1.5 billion in losses for farmers and ranchers, and drain $4.6 billion from the Texas economy over the next 18 months.
Elsewhere in the region, Oklahoma has had six heat-related deaths since June 21 and a seventh death is under investigation, officials said. Several Oklahoma communities have imposed water rationing because of the continuing dry weather.
Louisiana has had at least 20 heat-related deaths since mid-May, almost all in the northwestern corner of the state, and an additional six deaths are being investigated as possibly heat-related.
In Georgia, farmers in 155 of the state's 159 counties will be eligible for low-interest loans now that the federal government has declared them disaster areas because of severe weather. An extremely wet winter kept farmers out of their fields, and three months of dry, broiling weather has caused crops to wither this summer. Damages are estimated at $400 million.
Billy Griggs, a Unadilla, Ga., cotton and peanut grower, said low-interest loans will help some farmers, but many are already too deeply in debt to benefit.
''Either way, it's a Band-Aid approach,'' he said.
In Texas, air conditioning companies were working around the clock to keep up with service calls.
''I thought I had a technician who could talk about it, but he just left on another call,'' said Linda Rogers with Four Seasons Service Co. in Dallas.
"Dallas Death Toll From Heat Climbs to 15", Reuters, July 14, 1998
DALLAS -- An intense heat wave that has sent temperatures soaring to 110 degrees
has killed at least 15 people in the Dallas area, including 7 in the past two days, medical officials said Monday.
The officials said that five people died from the heat on Sunday, when thermometers hit an 18-year high of 110 degrees, and that another two died Monday.
Charles Gaylor, a field agent at the Dallas County medical examiner's office, said that most of the victims were either middle aged or elderly and that many had heart disease or other serious ailments.
"The heat is an extra stress on an already ill person," Gaylor said, but he emphasized that the searing heat could also kill healthy people if they were not careful.
The seven people killed over the last two days had body temperatures of at least 108 degrees.
One victim, Mai Washington, 83, was found at her home shortly after midnight on Sunday. She lived alone and had an air-conditioner but it was not turned on. Health officials said many people were too worried about high electricity bills to use their air-conditioners.
Temperatures here hit 100 degrees Monday for the eighth straight day, bringing the number of triple-digit temperature days so far this summer to 21. (Note: The number of consecutive triple-digit temperature days finally stopped at 29).