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.

Confirmed Cases: 51612

Reported Deaths: 2760
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion12074693
Lake5650249
Elkhart361860
Allen2952134
St. Joseph214869
Hamilton1708101
Cass16459
Hendricks1466100
Johnson1345118
Porter84038
Tippecanoe7799
Vanderburgh7686
Clark71144
Madison67864
LaPorte62328
Howard60758
Bartholomew60145
Kosciusko5824
Marshall5579
Noble52028
Boone49144
LaGrange48610
Jackson4783
Delaware47552
Hancock46836
Shelby45925
Floyd41444
Monroe34828
Morgan34531
Grant32226
Dubois3096
Montgomery29820
Henry29618
Clinton2903
White27610
Dearborn26523
Warrick26129
Vigo2588
Decatur25632
Lawrence25225
Harrison21822
Greene19632
Miami1942
Jennings17912
Putnam1738
DeKalb1694
Scott1659
Wayne1586
Daviess15117
Perry14910
Steuben1382
Orange13723
Jasper1362
Ripley1347
Franklin1288
Gibson1242
Wabash1163
Carroll1142
Starke1083
Whitley1076
Fayette1067
Newton10110
Huntington942
Jefferson872
Wells821
Randolph804
Fulton731
Jay720
Knox710
Washington681
Pulaski661
Clay645
Rush623
Posey610
Spencer571
Owen521
Benton510
Sullivan501
Adams491
Brown431
Blackford402
Fountain362
Crawford330
Switzerland320
Tipton321
Parke270
Martin260
Ohio230
Vermillion200
Warren151
Union140
Pike120
Unassigned0193

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 65592

Reported Deaths: 3058
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin12035447
Cuyahoga9208399
Hamilton6950208
Lucas3007306
Marion274839
Montgomery251336
Summit2351209
Pickaway222741
Mahoning1948239
Butler186347
Columbiana138560
Stark1225116
Lorain115269
Trumbull105378
Warren100926
Clark81610
Delaware72415
Fairfield69217
Lake60923
Tuscarawas60910
Medina58932
Licking58312
Belmont57024
Miami51031
Portage50260
Clermont4977
Wood49451
Ashtabula44844
Geauga42843
Richland3786
Wayne37355
Allen36641
Greene3469
Mercer30210
Erie28622
Holmes2615
Darke25926
Huron2472
Madison2229
Ottawa19324
Sandusky16915
Athens1671
Ross1483
Washington14620
Coshocton1424
Putnam14215
Crawford1415
Hardin12312
Morrow1211
Jefferson1152
Auglaize1114
Muskingum1041
Union1021
Preble911
Clinton892
Monroe8917
Hancock861
Lawrence860
Guernsey813
Hocking819
Williams762
Shelby754
Logan711
Scioto710
Carroll703
Ashland682
Fulton670
Brown631
Wyandot635
Champaign551
Fayette550
Knox551
Defiance543
Highland531
Van Wert491
Perry461
Seneca412
Henry350
Paulding320
Jackson300
Pike290
Adams261
Vinton232
Gallia211
Harrison141
Noble140
Meigs130
Morgan110
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Few Clouds
66° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 66°
Angola
Clear
64° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 64°
Huntington
Broken Clouds
65° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 65°
Decatur
Clear
64° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 64°
Van Wert
Clear
64° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 64°
Dry start to the work week
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events