Heat blamed for 2 deaths in Philadelphia

June 10, 2008 6:01:08 PM PDT
Record-breaking temperatures capped a four-day heat wave already blamed for the deaths of two Philadelphia women even as an approaching cold front bearing thunderstorms promised relief, forecasters said. The National Weather Service office in Mount Holly, N.J., said the mercury hit 98 degrees in Philadelphia at 3:22 p.m. Tuesday, one degree higher than the record of 97 set in 1964.

Deborah Wright Jean-Louis, 65, was found dead early Tuesday in an Overbrook home, while Genevieve Chmielewski, 82, was found Monday afternoon in a Port Richmond home, said Jeff Moran, a spokesman for the Philadelphia Medical Examiner's office.

The medical examiner's office ruled both deaths heat-related, Moran said. Both homes lacked air conditioning, and the windows of the Overbrook home were closed, he said.

Philadelphia public schools and Catholic elementary schools closed early for a second day. It was 96 there by mid-afternoon, one degree short of the record high set in 1964.

Troy Pierce, a contractor pouring concrete in Center City Philadelphia on Tuesday afternoon, said he'd been working in the sun since 7 a.m., and it has been "unbearable."

"I drank two gallons of water and never had to go to the bathroom," Pierce said.

The National Weather Service kept an excessive heat warning in effect until 8 p.m., reporting that temperatures reached the upper 90s Tuesday. Even into the evening, forecasters cautioned, highs would only drop to around 90.

But forecasters issued a severe thunderstorm watch for the area with storms approaching with the cold front moving west to east. Across the state, the storms promised a break from the oppressive heat and humidity, forecasters said.

"For now, the worst is over," said Rob Radzanowski, a forecaster for the National Weather Service in State College. "Of course, it's only mid-June."


AP Writer Sara Ganim in Philadelphia contributed to this report.