Heat wave rolls in: Cooling centers to open as high humidity, upper 90s take hold for rest of week

AP

By ALEXANDER MACDOUGALL

Staff Writer

Published: 06-17-2024 4:41 PM

The Pioneer Valley is bracing for a potentially record-setting heat wave this week, as local cities and towns open cooling centers and put out their own advisories warning residents.

According to the National Weather Service station in Norton, the areas along the Connecticut River from Greenfield to Hartford are currently under an “Excessive Heat Watch,” with the possibility of heat indexes surpassing 105 degrees. Similar to a wind chill factor during the cold months, a heat index measures what the temperature feels like when factoring in humidity with the current temperature.

Torry Dooley, a meteorologist at NWS Norton, said that the forecast over the next three days showed Tuesday heat index of 98 to 100 degrees, a Wednesday heat index of 102-104 degrees, and a Thursday heat index of 102-105 degrees.

“This is well above what is normal in June,” Dooley said. “It’s important that people limit time spent outdoors, wear sunblock, and take any necessary precautions.”

Other ways residents can help protect themselves include wearing wide-brimmed hats, drinking plenty of fluids and avoiding strenuous activity.

Dooley said that at the closest monitoring station in the Pioneer Valley for recording temperatures, located in Hartford, the all-time record for temperature in June was 100 degrees, not including heat index, which occurred once in 1952 and again in 1964.

“Every day this week will likely be pushing our record,” Dooley said.

On Monday, the city of Northampton listed a schedule for designated cooling centers where residents can go to beat the heat this week.

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The Division of Community Care, located at 1 Roundhouse Plaza, along with Manna Community Center, Forbes Library and the Northampton Police Station will be open on Tuesday and Thursday to act as cooling centers. The hours designated for DCC, Manna and Forbes on those days range from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. respectively, with the police station open 24/7. On Wednesday, only Manna and the police station will serve as a cooling center, while only DCC, Forbes and the police station will be open on Friday.

The town of Amherst also announced Monday it was opening a cooling center at the Glass Room of Bangs Community Center at 70 Boltwood Walk every day this week except Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Mill River Recreation Area pool will also be free to the public from 2-6 p.m. The Jones, Munson Memorial and North Amherst libraries will also be open to the public for cooling, but will all be closed on Wednesdays due to the Juneteenth holiday.

In Easthampton, cooling centers will be open on Tuesday and Wednesday at the Public Safety Complex, located at 32 Payson Ave., and Thursday and Friday at the Council on Aging building at 19 Union St. from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. In addition to the cooling centers, the Nonotuck Spray Park will have extended hours all week to help residents stay cool. The park will be open daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Residents of Hadley have the option of taking shelter at the Hadley Public Library from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday, and Friday from 2 to 7 p.m, but will be closed on Wednesday due to the Juneteenth holiday. The Hampshire Mall will also be available during normal business hours between 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. through the week, and the Hadley Senior Center will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day except Wednesday.

South Hadley reminds residents that the public library at 2 Canal St. and the Council on Aging at 45 Dayton St., are both designated cooling shelters. The library is open from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday and Friday this week, while the Senior Center is open all week from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Taking a splash through the town's spray parks is also a fun way for the whole family to beat the heat. Spray parks are open daily from 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. at The Beachgrounds Park and Buttery Brook Park.

The town of Westhampton said the Westahmpton Public Library would be open on Tuesday from 9 a.m. to noon and then from 1-5 p.m. the same day, and again from 2-8 p.m. on Thursday for cooling. The town hall will also be open to the public on Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Alexander MacDougall can be reached at amacdougall@gazettenet.com.