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Death Toll Rises in Heat Wave

July 21, 1998

As much of the country suffered through unrelenting heat, the mantra of the midsummer meltdown became a command: Slow it down.

Texas officials urged people to check up on the sick and the elderly, while deputies ventured into remote neighborhoods with water and fans in an effort to prevent more heat-related deaths. Today’s forecast in Dallas called for the 16th straight day of temperatures above 100.

Two more heat-related deaths were confirmed Monday in Dallas, bringing the total to 22. The searing heat has also contributed to at least 22 deaths in Louisiana, 11 in Oklahoma and one each in California, Arizona and Missouri.

In addition, 43 illegal immigrants have died this year from heat-related causes crossing the border from Mexico into Texas.

The deadly heat was forcing nearly everyone to take it easy.

In Lawton, Okla., Army trainees at Fort Sill must rest for 30 minutes every hour. Road work was at a standstill in Nebraska, where temperatures reached 107 in some parts on Monday.

``You can’t work yourself too hard,″ said James Harris, a highway supervisor working south of Nashville, Tenn. ``You take a break and get in the truck awhile and get some air conditioning. Taking a long lunch helps too.″

In eastern Oklahoma, fans and mist-spraying devices ran full blast at poultry houses to keep birds cool.

``When the temperature reaches 90 degrees or above in the house, the birds begin to stress,″ poultry farmer Marinell Strain said. ``When it reaches above 95 degrees, they begin to die.″

In humid Illinois, where temperatures were expected to be in the mid-90s today, Illinois Power asked its 550,000 customers to conserve electricity by setting air-conditioning thermostats to 80 degrees or higher or turning the units off.

In drought-stricken South Carolina, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman visited Clayton Lowder Jr.’s 2,000-acre Sumter County farm of stunted cotton and blackened corn.

Glickman assured farmers he would help find a better way to protect them from natural disasters, suggesting a mix of crop insurance and traditional disaster assistance.

In Richmond, Va., 17-year-old Derek Myer had enough of house painting and went for a cool soak in the James River. The heat was just too much, he said.

``It takes all your energy away,″ Myer said.

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