Extended heat takes its toll with deaths, illnesses | St. Louis Public Radio

Extended heat takes its toll with deaths, illnesses

Aug 9, 2012

Updated 9:15 a.m. August 9:

St. Louis County confirmed its fourth heat-related death of the summer today.

A son discovered the victim, a 76-year-old Lemay man, on July 10. The cause of death was certified on Wednesday.

The victim lived in the 700 block of Military Rd. The brick house had no central air conditioning, and a window unit was not working. The temperature inside the home was estimated to be between 90 and 95 degrees.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration confirmed yesterday what we've all suspected - the month of July was the hottest on record.

Updated 11:25 a.m. July 24:

St. Charles County has confirmed it's first heat-related death of the year.

A 64-year-old male was found in his mobile home on July 7. The St. Charles County medical examiner says the man is reported to have had his air conditioning removed due to the cost of its operation and to have refused an offer to move into cooler accommodations with a relative.

Updated 1:39 p.m. July 18:

St. Louis County has announced a confirmed third heat-related death. An 89-year-old Ballwin, Mo. man was found in his home on the 400 block of Monticello Drive. The man's air conditioning was not working properly.

Updated 3:22 p.m. July 16 (and again at 5:50 p.m. with comment from Pam Walker):

Three more heat deaths have been confirmed in St. Louis, bringing the total from the summer heat wave to 17 in the city.

City Health Director Pam Walker says like many of the victims of the heat, the three were low-income people over age 60. Two of the latest victims had air conditioning, but chose not to use it.

Walker is calling on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to establish a national heat death reporting system, to track information about heat deaths as they happen.

"Did they have an air conditioner, didn't they have an air conditioner, do they live alone, did  they have cognitive or mental health issues," Walker said. "You can't glean that from the data, it's just age, race, and death."

Walker says having nationwide access to this kind of information could help local health officials save lives.

Updated 2:36 p.m. July 10:

St. Louis County reported its second heat-related death of the year - a 93-year-old woman in University City.

Authorities said in a release that the window air conditioner in her home home was working properly, but was set at 95 degrees.

Today also brings news of more possible heat-related deaths in Illinois.

Investigators say a neighbor checking on 56-year-old Timothy Murray found the man Monday in his Collinsville apartment. Authorities believe Murray had died three days earlier.

Police say Murray was not running his air conditioning, and that the temperature inside the apartment was about 97 degrees Monday.

The death was the second in southwestern Illinois that authorities suspect was related to the heat.

Coroner's officials in Madison County say 88-year-old Dorothy Scott was found dead Sunday evening in her Troy home. Her air conditioner was working but the thermostat had been switched from "cool" to "heat." Investigators say Scott was prone to disorientation and may have inadvertently changed the setting.

Updated 6:32 p.m. July 9 with comments from City of St. Louis Health Director Pam Walker:

The City of St. Louis has announced seven more confirmed heat-related deaths, bringing the total number of heat related deaths in the city to 10 in 2012.

City of St. Louis Health Director Pam Walker says many of this summer’s victims suffer from a cognitive disability or mental illness, and that steps have been taken to involve advocates for people with those conditions.  None of the victims were on a list of people with functional needs that the City uses to make sure at risk residents are being cared for during extreme heat, according to Walker.

“And we're asking all case workers from the neighbors families to check on people, especially those who have cognitive disabilities or mental illnesses," Walker says.  "Because that's really taken a toll during this heat event."

Walker urges people not to get complacent and to continue checking on their neighbors and relatives, especially if they are elderly.

“We are not out of the woods yet, even though it’s cooler it will take a couple of days for these hot buildings to cool," Walker Says. "We need a couple of nights of mid-70s weather for these brick buildings to cool down.”

Here is more information on the dead from the City of St. Louis:

  • Marvin C. Flanigan, 72, at the 3100 block of Nebraska Ave: Flanigan was found on July 8 in his bedroom in a single family brick home. There was no air conditioning in the room. Mr. Flanigan lived with his wife, who went to stay with family. Mr. Flanigan refused to leave his home.

  • Henry Lee Lomax, 72, at the 4300 block of Evans Ave.: Lomax was found on July 7 at 12:15 p.m. on the main floor of a single family brick home. He had air conditioning units available but he chose not to use them. He lived alone.
  • Linda Allen, 62, at the 4500 block of Pennsylvania Ave.: Allen was found on July 4 at 8:00 p.m. in the second floor living room of a two story duplex. She did not have an air conditioner. She lived alone but her 6-year-old and 8-year-old grandchildren were there often.

  • Altamesa Dobson, 8, at the 3500 block of Franklin Ave.: Dobson was found on the ninth floor of a 14 story building. There was not an air conditioner in the room she was in, but air conditioning units were present and working in other parts of the apartment. She lived with family. Authorities told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Dobson suffered from an underlying medical condition which may have played a role in her death.

  • Jeanne M. Marshall, 75, at the 3300 block of Arlington Ave.: Marshall was found on the main level of a one story, single family home. She had one window unit in the home. She lived with family.

  • Jeanette M. Basch, 76,  at the 4400 block of Wabash Ave.: Basch was found on the main level of her single family home. She lived alone.

  • Hedwig I. Hanus, 84, at the 3800 block of Marine Ave.: Hanus was found in the kitchen of a two story, single family home. An air conditioning unit was present, but was not plugged in. When it was checked, it only blew hot air. She lived alone.

Updated 10:11 a.m. July 9:

St. Louis County has announced its first confirmed heat-related death. A 72-year-old Northwoods woman was the victim. Though she had both central air conditioning and a window  air conditioning unit, both were not working properly.

The St. Louis County Medical Examiner says in a media release that "through July 8, in St. Louis County, 162 persons have been seen with heat related illness in St. Louis County emergency departments, including 30 who were admitted."

Updated 1:47 p.m. July 2:

The City of St. Louis' Medical Examiner's Office has confirmed three heat-related deaths, the first of their kind for 2012:

  • An unnamed 74-year-old female at 400 block of N. 4th St. (family has not yet been notified, so name is withheld by the office): Individual was found on June 30, 2012, at 10:00 a.m. in her bedroom. Her central air conditioning was working but unused. 
  • Orena Brown, 83, at 5900 block of Mimika: Brown was found on July 1, 2012, at 8:00 a.m. in her living room. She was last seen on June 30, 2012, at 6:00 p.m. Her residence had a window unit but it was not cooling well.

  • Willie Hall, 80, at 2000 block of East College: Hall was found on June 30, 2012, at 4:20 p.m. in his second story bedroom. He had a window air conditioning unit available, but not in use. 

Updated Monday July 2, 12:08 p.m.: two more cases of heat-related illness have been reported. Cases concerning two males, one 17 years old and one 31 years old, were disclosed by St. Louis City hospitals on Sunday.

Updated Sunday at 1:34 pm with details about role heat could have played in the deaths of two elderly St. Louis City residents.

Heat may have played a role in the deaths of two elderly St. Louis residents over the weekend.  

St. Louis City Health Director Pamela Walker is quick to caution, though, that based on the age of both individuals it is too soon to draw any conclusions.

“We’re waiting for the results of autopsies before ruling two deaths over the weekend may be heat related,” Walker says.  “We can’t rule out other possible causes for the deaths because both victims are elderly.  The Medical Examiner’s office is the only office that can confirm the cause of death, and that takes them a couple of days to do that."

"We will not know for sure on these two deaths until early this week."   

Yesterday, Walker expressed concern that the heat wave may turn deadly as day after day of triple digit temperatures take their toll on vulnerable residents.  The heat wave is expected to last at least through this coming weekend, according to the National Weather Service.

Updated Sunday at  12:28 pm with current total of heat related illnesses in St. Louis City.

Updated Sunday at 11:11 am with current total of heat related illnesses in St. Louis County.

Original story posted 5:25 p.m. June 30, 2012:

The stretch of record busting temperatures is starting to take its toll and people are winding up in the emergency room.

On Friday and Saturday, St. Louis City hospitals saw a combined 20 patients suffering from heat related illnesses, from age 23 to 103.  At least 68 people have suffered from heat related illness in St. Louis County over the past three days .  

St. Louis City Health Director Pamela Walker says the next few days of heat could be deadly.

“It’s pretty typical to start seeing deaths about the third day,” Walker says.  “What people don’t remember sometimes is that heat is cumulative.  You might be OK the first day but it really wears your body down.  And by the third day if you have a compromised immune system, or elderly or your disabled it can really take a toll on your body.”

She says it’s important to keep hydrated and encourages people to check on their neighbors.

“We really need people to stay vigilant until we see a break in this heat,” Walker says. 

Temperatures are expected to hover around 100 degrees at least through the Fourth of July. 

Find a list of way to stay safe in the heat by clicking HERE.