Archive for Friday, August 11, 2006

Heat claims another life in Oklahoma

August 11, 2006

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— Oklahoma's fatal heat wave added to its toll as people across the state looked for ways to cope during another day of triple-digit heat.

Benjamin Conaway, 32, of Oklahoma City, became the latest victim of heatstroke, succumbing Tuesday night at an Oklahoma City hospital, said Kevin Rowland, chief investigator for the state Medical Examiner's Office. Conaway was walking Monday in Ardmore when he fell ill.

"He had a pre-existing health condition and was taking medication that made him susceptible to the heat," Rowland said.

Oklahoma's record number of heat-related deaths now stands at 21 for the year, 19 since July 9. Since the Medical Examiner started separating deaths by type in 1986, the highest had been 16 heat-related deaths in 2000.

Oklahoma's unofficial record for heat-related deaths is much higher. A blazing summer in 1980 left 40 dead from the heat, according to state officials that year.

With Oklahoma City again headed for triple digits Wednesday, Glenn "Corky" Wright had a simple solution.

"Try sticking your feet in 80-degree water," Wright said from his Warr Acres home. "That'll cool you right off."

Living on $600 a month disability payment makes it unaffordable to run the air conditioner on a stifling day, he said. Instead, Wright said he tried to spend his time in the relative cool of his greenhouse, occasionally pausing to soak his feet in a backyard koi pond.

"They could deal with it in the '30s," Wright said of the heat. "I can handle it now."

Although he based his decision to eschew air conditioning on cost, there was also an element of escaping the soft life, he said. People can survive without every modern convenience, he said, but then added a caveat.

"If I had plenty of funds," he said, "I bet I would run it."

Thursday marked Oklahoma City's 12th day in a row of 100-plus temperatures. On July 29, the one day in the past two weeks that didn't record triple digits, the high was 99.

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