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3 more heat-related deaths in Memphis area

SHARE 3 more heat-related deaths in Memphis area

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Three more people have died from heat-related causes in the Memphis area, raising this year's total in Shelby County to 19, health officials said Tuesday.

Excessive heat has been a problem this summer in Memphis, where the heat index has been 110 degrees or higher for all but three days so far this month, said Scott McNeil, a National Weather Service meteorologist. Heat indexes of 118 or greater were reported at Memphis International Airport three days this month.

The heat index combines air temperature and humidity to reflect how hot it feels. To date, this summer in Memphis has been the hottest on record, slightly warmer than 1980, McNeil said.

Still, it appears the Memphis area will get some relief this week. Temperatures were forecast in the mid-90s, with humidity readings lower than they have been other times this month.

"We definitely have a break at the moment," McNeil said.

Temperatures in the rest of the state also have been hotter than normal. Through Monday, Nashville had recorded 30 consecutive days of temperatures at or above 90 degrees. That has happened just three other times in Nashville since record-keeping began in 1871.

But the Nashville area also is getting a reprieve from excessive heat and humidity this week, with rain possible on Wednesday or Thursday, meteorologist David Matson said.

Temperatures in the Knoxville area also were cooler Tuesday, with cloud cover and scattered rain showers helping ease the heat. Average temperatures in Knoxville were forecast in the upper 80s this week, compared with readings in the mid-90s earlier this month, said Sam Roberts of the National Weather Service in Knoxville.

As the weather became a bit more comfortable, health officials in Memphis reported three more heat-related deaths.

In a statement released Tuesday, Shelby County Medical Examiner Karen Chancellor said an unidentified man was found dead outside a vacant building Aug. 5.

Last Thursday, an 85-year-old woman was found dead in her home, which had a working air conditioner and fan that weren't in use when she was discovered.

The third death happened Saturday, when a 67-year-old man was found in his home, which had no cooling units.

All three people died of chronic illness, with environmental heat exposure a contributing factor.

Health officials stress that people should limit their outdoor activities, drink plenty of cool fluids, wear loose clothing and apply sunscreen to protect themselves from the heat and sun.

Children and pets should not be left alone in cars, and people should regularly check on elderly neighbors and relatives, especially those who may not have adequate air conditioning.

"It is imperative that we encourage, stress, and even insist that the elderly take necessary precautions to protect themselves from heat-related sickness — even if they don't feel the need to do so," said Kenneth Robinson, Shelby County health officer.