Excessive heat could kill more Americans as the environment warms

According to a report out by Climate Central, if environmental regulations are not tightened, more excessive heat days will occur as we head towards the end of the century. This will cause an increase in heat-related deaths, especially in Northern states where people aren't as acclimated to hot temperatures.

Posted: Jun 29, 2020 8:08 PM
Updated: Jun 30, 2020 10:21 AM

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WFFT) - Summertime has become a struggle for people like Rusty Beauchamp. Sitting in her home, shades closed and lights off, trying to keep cool.

In the Summer of 2019, when heat indices peaked in the mid-100s, Beauchamp's air conditioner went out, forcing her to sit and wait until nighttime, when it might get cooler.

"Last summer was really bad," Beauchamp said. "We had all the windows and doors, and everything open. We couldn’t stay cool because we didn’t have any of these small air conditioners. This year we borrowed the small air conditioners from friends, so it’s a little bit better."

This summer, she has relief from three small window air conditioners, but she doesn’t have much hope for them.

"I don’t imagine these little units will last much longer. They’re older and next week it’s going to get really hot, so I’m not really sure how I’m going to deal with that. I may go stay with my daughter," Beauchamp said.

Rusty is just one of many throughout the region and tens of thousands throughout the country who have to suffer through the excessive heat without immediate relief, and that problem could be getting worse.

According to a report out by Climate Central, scientists know that as we head towards the end of the century more excessive heat days will occur. This will cause an increase in heat-related deaths, especially here in Northern states where we’re not as acclimated to hot temperatures.

Senior citizens, those with underlying health conditions and on medications are particularly vulnerable according to the report.
John Falatko, DO, with Parkview, who was not involved with the repor explains why.

"As the body ages, it becomes more frail, especially to our environments and the exchange that they'll face with our environment, so the medications help compound that. Sometimes, it can make it more difficult," Falatko said. "They need the medicines to keep them alive and keep them healthy during normal conditions, but during extreme conditions, they can work against them."

These medications can make it hard to stay hydrated, and cause our bodies problems with breathing and regulating temperature.

For someone like Rusty, she had COPD, Arthritis, Asthma and other health problems that make her more susceptible to heat illness or death.

Not only that, living on limited income means you have to choose between other necessities and fixing your air conditioning.

Beauchamp lives in her mobile home with just her son. Their household income is below poverty level according to her. Beauchamp said, "Basically air conditioning is a luxury at the point now because I have other things that I need to take care of that are more important." 

Katie Hougham with Aging and In-Home Services of Northeast Indiana says the excessive heat is a problem every summer, but COVID-19 is causing people to second guess one of the safety precautions when it comes to extreme heat. 

"To combine that [excessive heat] with COVID where maybe they would go and stay with their daughter for a couple of days when the temps are really high and now they're not wanting to intermingle in that way, it's that much more scary," Hougham said.

In the long term, authors of the study say we need to create stricter environmental regulations to make sure the number of days of excessive heat is close to normal, causing fewer heat-related deaths. In the short-term, there are things we can do to help protect people like Rusty.

During excessive heat:

  • Knock on your neighbors' door to see if they’re alright. Both Falatko and Hougham say this is the #1 thing to do.
  • Try and get relief from air conditioning, fans, cooling centers.
  • Check with your doctors to see if your meds can cause you problems.
  • If you live in Fort Wayne city limits, applying to the Homeowner Repair Loan Program could help get the relief you need.

During the interview is when Rusty found out that a loan program like that existed. She said, "That’s fantastic because I didn’t know there was a program like that. I would have air conditioner fixed and my furnace, and everything a lot sooner."

If you're someone who needs help with getting relief from excessive heat, reach out to your township trustee's office or call 211 to get connected with an agency that may be able to help you.

To apply to the Homeowner Repair Loan Program, click here.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 766351

Reported Deaths: 13965
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1052671804
Lake568691028
Allen42858698
St. Joseph37286568
Hamilton37260426
Elkhart29729470
Tippecanoe23441230
Vanderburgh23153404
Porter19568327
Johnson18807391
Hendricks18059321
Madison13518345
Clark13502198
Vigo12817255
LaPorte12558224
Monroe12529178
Delaware11124198
Howard10654237
Kosciusko9751123
Hancock8734149
Bartholomew8256157
Warrick8053157
Floyd8005181
Grant7349181
Wayne7234201
Boone7173105
Morgan6904142
Marshall6329116
Dubois6270118
Cass6085111
Dearborn600078
Noble597890
Henry5944111
Jackson515677
Shelby509897
Lawrence4914127
Gibson461596
Montgomery457592
Clinton454555
DeKalb453685
Harrison452476
Whitley415345
Huntington414081
Steuben410260
Miami405073
Jasper400455
Knox388091
Putnam384662
Wabash368783
Adams352256
Ripley351071
Jefferson341586
White339354
Daviess3089100
Wells302781
Greene292985
Decatur291693
Fayette285864
Posey280935
Scott278758
LaGrange277172
Clay273148
Washington253537
Randolph247583
Jennings238649
Spencer237931
Fountain234850
Starke229959
Owen222259
Sullivan219543
Fulton207845
Jay202832
Carroll197122
Orange190956
Perry189739
Vermillion180044
Rush177327
Tipton172347
Franklin171935
Parke154816
Pike141434
Blackford137832
Pulaski123648
Newton123036
Benton109615
Brown105943
Crawford105516
Martin92515
Warren87715
Switzerland8328
Union73510
Ohio58311
Unassigned0428

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1122647

Reported Deaths: 20467
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1302911493
Cuyahoga1171502259
Hamilton823481259
Montgomery534491059
Summit488581014
Lucas43734832
Butler39936614
Stark33800937
Lorain25996509
Warren24896312
Mahoning22685612
Lake21457396
Clermont20368260
Delaware19120138
Licking16842227
Trumbull16786491
Fairfield16762207
Medina15832276
Greene15499254
Clark14339308
Portage13417218
Wood13338201
Allen12043245
Richland11726213
Miami10998228
Wayne9251227
Columbiana9196236
Muskingum9119137
Pickaway8738123
Tuscarawas8714254
Marion8703140
Erie8126166
Ashtabula7272179
Hancock7044134
Ross7012165
Geauga6948153
Scioto6679108
Belmont6210179
Lawrence5917104
Union590449
Jefferson5723162
Huron5630122
Sandusky5482130
Darke5436130
Seneca5376128
Washington5362111
Athens526560
Auglaize507087
Mercer490685
Shelby481297
Knox4609112
Madison447266
Ashland443198
Defiance438499
Fulton435775
Putnam4351104
Crawford4110111
Brown409662
Preble3946107
Logan391679
Clinton389266
Ottawa375581
Highland365068
Williams356478
Champaign348360
Guernsey330254
Jackson321254
Perry298350
Morrow294643
Fayette288250
Hardin279165
Henry276967
Coshocton272561
Holmes2725102
Van Wert251665
Adams249258
Gallia249250
Pike244637
Wyandot235257
Hocking222663
Carroll201249
Paulding179442
Meigs151040
Noble137739
Monroe137545
Harrison115238
Morgan111524
Vinton87217
Unassigned03
Fort Wayne
Partly Cloudy
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Hi: 88° Lo: 64°
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Angola
Clear
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Huntington
Clear
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Hi: 85° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 85°
Decatur
Partly Cloudy
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Hi: 86° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 87°
Van Wert
Clear
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Hi: 88° Lo: 63°
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It's a steamy Wednesday with scattered showers and thunderstorms arriving Wednesday night.
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