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Week ahead promises to be a scorcher

Week ahead promises to be a scorcher

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ST. LOUIS • Ervin Lee Crosby, 82, grew up on a Mississippi cotton farm and worked many years as a parking lot attendant downtown. He's an authority on enduring heat.

"Find some shade and sit," Crosby said Monday from his customary spot beneath a tree at 20th and Carr streets. "Don't move. And have a couple of beers."

Crosby lives nearby at Carr Square Village. He spends most summer days sitting in his camping chair in the shade, letting the thick leaves and breeze do their soothing work. He plans to be there every day this week, despite the warnings of triple-digit heat through Friday.

As he shared his wisdom, he sipped a can of Miller beer through a straw.

The official dispensers of hot-weather tips would cringe at Crosby's endorsement of cold beer. They can be consoled knowing that most people won't be following him outside.

Not if Monday in Forest Park was any indication. The handball courts were empty, the tennis courts nearly so. Business was light on the golf courses and there was plenty of parking at the St. Louis Zoo lots.

Monday's high was 97 degrees. The National Weather Service expects temperatures to reach 100 today and top that by a few degrees Wednesday through Friday. Highs Saturday and Sunday are forecast at 98.

There's a chance of a brief break early next week.

Crosby said he has an air conditioner in his apartment but doesn't like to use it. That makes him the exception — most people spend hot spells inside air-conditioned buildings, dashing from one to another in chilled cars.

Ameren Missouri, with a generating capacity of 10,500 megawatts, expects customers to draw about 8,650 megawatts daily this week, spokeswoman Lisa Manzo said. That would be a bit less than its record of 8,909 megawatts set during a hot spell in August 2007, when the temperature reached 105 degrees.

St. Louis water commissioner Curt Skouby said the water works, which produced about 155 million gallons Monday, probably will boost to 163 million daily as the temperatures climb. Most of that will be for watering lawns and gardens, Skouby said.

That's a far cry from the days before air conditioning, when water demand was the misery benchmark. The water division, with a capacity of 360 million gallons daily, pumped 300 million gallons daily during heat waves as late as the 1970s, when many more people used showers and hoses for relief.

Jim Kramper, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said there's a chance of a break Sunday or Monday as the squat high-pressure system briefly drifts back westward, allowing northerly winds to slip into town. But he said they would bring temperatures near normal — 90 degrees or so — and then be nudged aside with a return of the heat later next week.

Kramper said the meandering of the high-pressure system is a normal summertime pattern and explains why the St. Louis area enjoyed a similar break last week, after the 100-degree temperatures on July 11-12.

That first round caused four deaths in the area. On Monday, the St. Clair County coroner's office reported that a man, 78, from Spruce Street in O'Fallon, Ill., died of heatstroke July 11 while crawdad fishing on a pond near Interstate 255 and Black Lane in Caseyville. Two other heat deaths were reported in St. Louis, and another in Granite City.

On Monday, St. Louis officials said that four children and a dog were left inside a car about 11:30 a.m. Sunday at a supermarket in the 4600 block of Chippewa Street. City health director Pam Walker said the children, ranging in ages from 18 months to 8 years old, had been in the car less than five minutes when officers arrived. They were treated and released. No arrests were made.

"But one minute is too long," Walker said. "A car can heat up to 120 degrees in five minutes."

Last week, three adults were charged with child endangerment after three small children, 21-month-old twins and a 5-month-old, were found inside a car parked in the 6400 block of Chippewa. The adults were inside a restaurant when police arrived.

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