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Pandemic means fewer places to cool off during heat waves in Michigan


In most Michigan communities, public pools are closed.  Libraries are closed. Public buildings are closed, due to efforts to keep the coronavirus from spreading.

That means fewer places for people to go to cool off when it gets really hot - and the next nine or ten days will be really hot - with high temperatures around 90 to 95 in much of lower southern Michigan.

Fears of spreading the coronavirus to vulnerable residents have even caused groups in Oakland County that normally open up cooling centers to say, "not this year." 

Other places plan to open up cooling centers if necessary, but try to abide by CDC guidelines for physical distancing.  That includes the city of Detroit and the city of Kalamazoo.

Jeff Chamberlin is Kalamazoo's Deputy City Manager.  He says community organizations are preparing to open cooling centers if they become necessary, and all are aware of the need to physically distance people if possible, or require masks if not.

But there will be many places for families to cool off outside, he says, with the city's splash pads open, along with fire hydrants in some neighborhoods.

"We know that in a number of areas sometimes fire hydrants get turned on by citizens," says Chamberlin.  "So we've identified a number of  areas the city will proactively turn on fire hydrants and turn them off at the end of the day."

County public health departments often do not ask agencies to open cooling centers unless the heat index hits a certain point during the day, such as a combined 105 degrees heat plus humidity, along with night temperature remaining elevated, above 75 degrees.

Weather forecasts are calling for nighttime temperatures to drop below 70 degrees most nights during the heat wave.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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