Heat wave: No fatalities, few lose power

Cooling off
Members of Phoenix 96 Alaska U-15 soccer team from Fairbanks, Alaska cooled off under the water spray of a fire truck at the Schwan's USA Cup International Youth Soccer Tournament in Blaine, Minn. Wednesday, July 20, 2011.
MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson

Metro area hospitals are reporting dozens of cases of heat-related illnesses, but so far no deaths from the heat wave.

Officials at Hennepin County Medical Center say since Monday, most of the 18 people seeking treatment there were released. A few had to be admitted. Officials with North Memorial Hospital in Robbinsdale say they've treated 18 heat-related cases since the beginning of the week. Regions Hospital in St. Paul says it's treated 10 people since the weekend.

Dr. Douglas Brunette, a hyperthermia expert at the medical center, said children and the elderly are most at risk for heat exhaustion or heat stroke, as are people doing strenuous outdoor activities. But Brunette said people who are not running and jumping around can get sick too.

"When it gets this hot, you will sweat, you will lose volume, you lose electrolytes," Brunette said. "Eventually you can definitely get into heat illness-related problems."

Brunette said the most serious condition is heat stroke. A person with the condition will likely suffer from nausea, low blood pressure and confusion.

"That truly is a medical emergency. Those patients need to be rapidly cooled or they can suffer irreparable damage," he said.

Before you keep reading ...

MPR News is made by Members. Gifts from individuals fuel the programs that you and your neighbors rely on. Donate today to power news, analysis, and community conversations for all.

They can also die from heat stroke.

The best way to avoid heat-related illness is to stay out of the heat. But there are several major activities that will draw people outdoors, including the Aquatennial Torchlight Parade held Wednesday night in Minneapolis. The city will provide several water fountains near the route, and city officials are encouraging people to bring their own water bottles to fill up.

RECORD POWER DEMAND, FEW OUTAGES

This week's heatwave has also led to record power demand. An Xcel Energy spokesman said Monday set the record with the highest one-day peak demand ever of a little more than 9,500 megawatts. That broke the record of 9,100 set last August.

"Our system had never seen that kind of demand before," company spokesman Tom Hoen said.

Hoen said there is plenty of supply, but intense heat can cause cables and other equipment to fail.

About 8,000 customers were without power at the peak Monday — far short of the 142,000 customers who lost power over the July 4th holiday.

A downed wire cut power to some customers in the east metro early Wednesday, but most customers were restored by early the afternoon. About 1,200 customers were without power at 12 p.m.

Hoen said people can use simple tricks to save energy, including keeping their air conditioner unit in the shade, closing drapes while they are out during the day and keeping the thermostat at about 78 degrees.

SOME DON'T MIND THE HEAT

The extreme heat has prompted changes at the Schwan's USA Cup soccer tournament in Blaine. Spokesman Barclay Kruse said organizers have shortened the games, instituted mandatory water breaks and rescheduled some games to cooler times of the day. They've also suspended play a few times.

Kruse said some players don't seem to mind the heat.

"We talked with a team from Puerto Rico yesterday and they said this is significantly more comfortable than what they're used to playing in," he said. "They said they were surprised that we suspended play on Sunday."

Kruse said it's hot for everyone, no matter where they're from. He said a half-dozen people were treated by on-site medical staff for heat-related maladies earlier in the tournament, but no one had to be hospitalized.