Tuesday, July 14, 2015

TOP STORY >> Cooling centers to open in cities

Leader staff writer

The recent wave of deadly heat, which has heat indexes hitting 110 degrees, may have already claimed one life in the area.

A 73-year-old Lonoke County woman was found dead Saturday morning at her mobile home on Joyner Loop off Mt. Tabor Road. Heat is suspected as the family says her air conditioning was out.

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher said the city has opened two cooling areas, and at least one church is opening during the heat of the day.

Sherwood is working on obtaining a supply of fans, and city officials have said, if anyone has fans to give to the city, they should call the mayor’s office.

Cabot is not doing anything extra at this time. “We have in the past,” explained Mayor Bill Cypert, “but historically we’ve had very little response.”

However, Cherry Godwin, site director at the city’s senior center, said the facility is open to anyone who needs to cool off.

“We are focusing on our seniors and making sure they drink fluids, stay out of the heat and, if it’s too hot in their homes, to get here. We can even stay open at night if we need to,” she said.

The temperatures have been in the mid- to high 90s all week with a chance of scattered showers. The first official triple-digit day (101 degrees) is expected Sunday or Monday, according to the National Weather Service.

Tuesday, with the heat index, the temperature felt like 110 degrees, one of the warmest in the state.

Fletcher said the community center and senior center would be open as cooling sites from noon until 6 p.m. every day until the heat breaks.

“Anyone in the city is welcome, but should bring a book or something to entertain themselves as there isn’t much there other than cool air and chairs,” he said.

The mayor also said Bethel Baptist Church, 112 N. Jeff Davis Ave., will be open from noon to 6 p.m. to help those needing a break from the heat.

Heat is the No. 1 weather-related killer in the U.S., according to the National Weather Service.

When heat index values reach 115 degrees for one hour over a fairly large area, an Excessive Heat Warning may be posted by the weather service.

Of the Top 10 hottest days on record, six of them occurred in July with the highest one being July 31, 1986, with a recorded actual temperature of 110 degrees.

The hottest days on record for the area occurred twice in August at 111 degrees.