The last summer I lived in St. Louis was 1988. By the new year, I was happy and poor in Northern (waaaaay northern) California.
That last summer, though, was a doozy. It’s easy to remember because I spent it interning at KMOX, a CBS-owned clear-channel AM news & sports station. I was as wired into the news as it was possible to be before Google, Drudge, and the InstaPundit came along.
Busy for news, too. It was the summer of Willie Horton and the Hollywood writer’s strike (remember Hal Gurney’s Network Time Killers?) and my hometown’s first howgrown canonization. And it was hot. How hot was it? Eggs actually cried uncle before you could drop them for the sidewalk test.
So, every hour or so, we’d announce where the A/C shelters had been set up, so that people could cool off a little. For the first time in real life, I saw firemen open up hydrants for kids to play in. Cute, sure — but no laughing matter. When you have ten days in a row well over 100, with the humidity not far behind. . .well, you couldn’t laugh, because sudden deep breaths induced gagging.
Yes, people died. Yeah, we kept a tally going. As I recall, over 30 people, mostly seniors, died from the heat. Then there’s this:
Undertakers in France estimate the recent heatwave killed more than 13,600 people.
Funeral home giant OGF say almost 3500 people will have died in Paris alone by the end of the month.
Their figures are almost two-and-a-half times the French government’s heat- related death toll. Health minister Jean-Francois Mattei conceded on Monday that it was “plausible” that up to 5000 people may have died in France, almost twice as many as previously feared.
However, he insisted that figure was a hypothesis and that the final toll was not expected for several weeks.
I find that upper number suspect as hell. 13,500 people dead, in a modern nation, due to a heatwave the would scarcely get notice in Texas? True, France isn’t prepared for the heat like Dallas is — but neither was my old home. Even 5,000 seems much, much too high.
Were there no emergency A/C shelters? Did the hydrants stay closed? Did the Seine dry up? Lord knows, the French know to keep their wine cool in cellars — so what about people?
What the hell went wrong?