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Last updated 12:08AM ET
March 2, 2021
Heat Wave Weakens; 8 Deaths Reported
(APR - Alabama Public Radio ) - State health officials said Friday that eight deaths in Alabama are being blamed on the oppressive heat wave that has sent the temperature soaring over 100 degrees for almost two weeks.

Nearly 150 people have been treated at hospitals for heat-related illness.

State health officials, who earlier in the day put the death toll at three, increased it in the afternoon following a survey of hospitals and medical examiners across the state.

State Health Officer Dr. Don Williamson expressed concern for people living in homes without air conditioning.

"We ask the public to contact elderly friends and family to make arrangements to assist them," Williamson said.

The news of the deaths came as overcast skies and spot showers held the temperature below 100 in some parts of the state for awhile but not long enough as a sunny afternoon sent the temperature to 101 in Montgomery, the capital's 12th day in a row in triple digits.

The hottest part of the state Friday was in the Tennessee Valley in north Alabama, where the temperature reached 102 in Huntsville and 103 in Muscle Shoals. But a line of heavy afternoon thunderstorms cooled off the area, lowering the temperature into the 70s Friday night.

Birmingham's streak of 100-plus temperatures appeared to be ending at a record 10 days as morning showers held the high down to 98 degrees Friday afternoon. Tuscaloosa reached 102, continuing its streak for another day.

Previously state health officials said there had been no confirmed deaths from the hot weather, which has been compared to a 1980 heat wave that claimed 125 lives in Alabama.

But Fred Grady, the director of the health department's division of epidemiology, said Friday that two deaths in Morgan County this week and one in Elmore County last week are now being blamed on the heat. Later Friday health department officials said heat-related deaths had also been reported in Autauga, Chilton, Coffee, Henry and Montgomery counties.

Grady said 148 people have been treated at Alabama hospitals for heat-related illnesses since the heat wave began in early August. The temperature has reached as high as 107 in some areas.

The two deaths in Morgan County were 59-year-old Beverly Englund of Decatur, who was found dead Wednesday in her Decatur home, and Jerry B. Hays, 64, whose body was found Monday in his home in the Lacey's Spring community.

Details concerning the other deaths were not immediately available.

In Elmore County, an anonymous donor gave county schools 20,160 bottles of water Friday for children to drink on school buses that have no air conditioning. Elmore County schools spokeswoman Judy Caton said the system began receiving donations of bottled water after school officials announced earlier this week they would allow students to drink water on buses because of the heat.

"The kids were so thrilled. They were quiet on the buses and just sat in their seats and drank their water," Caton said.

While the heat has forced many in Alabama to curtail outdoor activities, it apparently hasn't kept golfers off the Alabama Golf Trail, a string of Robert Trent Jones golf courses owned by Retirement Systems of Alabama.

"Golfers are a fairly hardy bunch. If the sun is shining and it's not raining, you're going to get golfers," said John Cannon, president of SunBelt Golf, which managers the golf courses.

Cannon said there has not been much of a drop since the heat wave began in early August. He said course officials are using large industrial fans on greens and offering iced-down towels to golfers.

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