St. Louis (KSDK) - The City of St. Louis is attributing four additional deaths to the intense heat wave that swept over the city the first week of July.
Enones Berry, a 72 year old woman, Timothy Simmonson, a 43 year old man, Troy Cooper a 70 year old man, and Earl Rinker, a 43 year old man all died as a result of the heat. This brings the total number of deaths in the City of St. Louis to 14. The two deaths in Illinois and two in St. Louis County bring the total number of heat related deaths to 18 for the St. Louis metro area.
In response to the deaths, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay announced the establishment of a severe weather public health protection program that will be coordinated by the Department of Health.
"Whether it is power outages caused by snow and ice in the winter, tornadoes and flooding in the spring, or dangerous heat in the summer, these extreme events are happening often enough that we need to dedicate public health workers to do nothing else but organize our prevention and response," said Slay.
One of the most recent is 72 year old Enones Berry who died in her home in north St. Louis last week.
"I loved her personality, I loved her character, I loved her spiritual disposition," says Andra Berry, her nephew.
He called her "Auntie" and says he was just in town last week and tried to see her.
"I didn't get the chance to see her, but I told her how much I loved her, and I told her that she's my favorite girl and that's kind of strange you know because in a spiritual way it was meant to be that way," he says.
This tragedy has caught the Berry family off guard. Andra says you don't realize how serious the extreme heat can get.
"This is something new for us and it makes our family more aware too how serious this is," he says.
So serious that the city of St. Louis is starting a program geared towards all kinds of severe weather but especially extreme heat.
"Work on it year around, plan for it, educate the public about the risks, reach out to the communities that are at risk," says City Health Director Pam Walker.
The main goal of the program is education.
"They need for that neighbor to come by, that one on one communication and contact to say hey I care about you, I understand that these things will keep us safer as a community, let's turn the AC on, let's make sure things are in place so we have one less death," says program director Shontae Fluelen-Hays.
"Check on your loved ones, especially the older ones," urges Berry. "If they are up in there long check on them because you just never know."
The health department will work with several other city agencies, departments, and non-profits to educate residents about safety and prevention for extreme weather conditions.