LYNCHBURG — There have been 30 deaths — one here in Moore County — associated with the cold weather that has gripped the south recently.
According to Moore County Sheriff Mark Logan, Bill Barton, 73, was found dead in his Magnolia St. residence last Thursday morning.
“He was using a little space heater to heat with, but the temperature inside the house was 44 degrees,” said Logan, adding that Barton had been in failing health.
According to the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA), 30 deaths had been recorded across the state through Tuesday morning due to the weather.
On Friday morning the Tennessee Department of Health and TEMA issued a hypothermia warning for Tennessee residents.
“We’ve sadly lost Tennesseans to cold weather this year already and we need to make sure more of our friends and neighbors are protected from harm,” said TEMA Deputy Commissioner David Purkey. “If there are older people in your neighborhood, check on them regularly to make sure they’re okay. Dress in layers to protect yourself and keep additional warm clothing in your vehicle. If you need help getting to a doctor, call on emergency first responders to aid you. Your actions in the remaining cold weather could save a life.”
Hypothermia occurs when the body’s core temperature falls below 95 degrees Fahrenheit, just a few degrees less than the normal 98.6 degrees F. Symptoms of hypothermia include being confused, sleepy, apathetic and delirious.
Hypothermia can also cause a person to slip into a coma, causing the heart and respiratory system to fail. The Tennessee Department of Health suggests dressing in layers, changing out of wet clothes, limiting time outdoors and avoiding alcohol. Adopting a “buddy” system is also recommended so friends can check on one another often to look for signs of cold weather health problems.
In neighboring Coffee County, to try and prevent deaths, the Coffee County Emergency Management Agency has been operating an emergency shelter at the Red Raider Academy located at the 111 on ramp to Interstate 24.
“We have had several residents of the county to take advantage of the shelter,” Coffee County EMA director Allen Lendley said Friday afternoon. “We have cots for people to sleep and we have provided food for those staying with us.”
He noted that the shelter was opened all last week during the severe weather.
“It is a shame that the gentleman in Moore County died,” added Lendley.
A total of 13,419 hypothermia-related fatalities were recorded in the U.S. in the last decade.
According to a recent CDC publication, men accounted for 67 percent of these deaths and people of advanced age had the highest rates of death. Rates of death for men and women over age 65 were more than double those of the general population. Alcohol and other drugs were a factor in approximately 10 percent of the deaths.
“We all need to be prepared and dress for the weather. If that is not practical during car travel or work, we can keep warmer clothes in our cars and do our best to keep a closer eye on older friends, relatives and neighbors,” said TDH Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH. “Call EMS for assistance if you are unsure if someone is at risk.
“It is even more important if you are drinking alcohol or suspect someone else has been drinking to watch out for hypothermia. That warm feeling from alcohol is basically heat leaving your body, as alcohol and some other drugs make it harder for your body to retain and regulate heat.”
—Tullahoma News staff writer Wayne Thomas contributed to this story