Sweltering Missouri faces hotter week ahead

Monday, July 19, 2010 | 12:39 p.m. CDT; updated 11:05 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 19, 2010

ST. LOUIS — Simmering temperatures that have enveloped much of Missouri for the past several weeks and caused more than 100 people to fall ill are about to get hotter, with forecasters warning of a particularly brutal week ahead.

Temperatures in much of the state should reach the mid- to upper-90s through at least Friday, Scott Truett, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in suburban St. Louis, said Monday. Combined with high humidity, heat indices of 105 to 110 degrees are possible, especially in western and southwest Missouri.

"The real oppressive air is over the central plains and southwest Missouri, and it's trying to build into the St. Louis area," Truett said. "At the same time, thunderstorm complexes are dropping in from Iowa and Illinois."

Those spot storms were keeping temperatures reasonable in parts of northern and eastern Missouri on Monday. Other areas of the state were scorching hot and sticky humid.

Missouri has had just two heat deaths so far this year — twin 2-year-old girls who died in their grandmother's car in June. But a steady stream of heat-related illnesses have been reported since hot weather settled in mid-June, Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services spokesman Kit Wagar said.

"If it's 102 or 88, both can be deadly in the wrong circumstances," Wagar said. He urged people to check on friends and relatives who are elderly or whose health conditions could make them more susceptible to the heat.

More than 100 heat-related illnesses have been reported since the start of the current heat wave, health officials reported.

Truett said heat can have a cumulative affect — the longer it stays hot, the more likely deaths and illnesses will occur. Although this summer has been hot, there have been enough cooler days sprinkled in to offer at least a little relief and keep illness and death totals down, he said.

Gentry Trotter of the charitable organization Cool-Down St. Louis, which provides air conditioners, fans and energy assistance to seniors, the disabled and the needy with small children, said demand is up 60 percent from a year ago — but financial donations are down 40 percent. He worries what will happen if the heat wave goes on much longer.

"So far we've all dodged this death bullet from the scorching hot sun," he said. "A lot of people have been sick, but we've been blessed that people are taking advantage of cooling centers, they're going to people's homes with air conditioners."

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