As sweltering weather approaches, residents can find several places for cool relief throughout Columbia County.
Beginning Monday and extending through Sept. 30, six cooling centers will be opened in key locations in the county.
Emergency and Operations Director Pam Tucker said that though one cooling center could accommodate residents, having multiple locations proves beneficial.
"What we found were a lot of the people, especially the elderly people, don't want to have to go too far from their home," she said.
The cooling centers are located at the Bessie Thomas Community Center near Grovetown; Patriots Park near Grovetown; Wesley United Methodist Church in Evans; Eubank Blanchard Community Center in Appling; the Laurel and Hardy Museum in Harlem; and Liberty Park Community Center in Grovetown.
The cooling centers usually are busiest in July and August, said Tucker, noting that the Bessie Thomas Community Center, also the county's senior center, seems to be the most popular spot.
"If we have a hot day here and there, people typically don't need to go, but when you have those consecutive days, that's whenever it starts getting bad," she said. "If they don't have air conditioning, a fan is just not enough for those consecutive days."
The Bessie Thomas Community Center provides residents with an air-conditioned sitting room, light refreshments and a chance to watch television, said Jeff Asmann, manager of the senior center.
Though it's difficult to determine which visitors are coming in specifically for the cooling center, Asmann said many seniors who come to the center don't have central heating and air in their homes.
"I know that there are some folks who like to get through the heat of the day here at the center, and then when they go home in the afternoon, it's not so hot," he said.
Summer weather also poses a risk for heat-related illnesses, such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Signs of heat exhaustion are cool, moist, pale or flushed skin; heavy sweating; headache; nausea; dizziness; and exhaustion. Heat stroke signs include hot, red skin; changes in consciousness; rapid or weak pulse; and rapid, shallow breathing.
Tucker reminds people to remain hydrated, wear lightweight clothing and try to limit strenuous activities to when it is the most cool outside. She also said people should avoid beverages containing caffeine or alcohol.
Tucker said pet owners should never leave animals in parked cars with the windows up and should keep a shelter and cool, fresh water within reach at all times.
"A car can reach 120 degrees in just a few minutes, and even if the windows are slightly open, it can still get up to as much as 102 degrees," she said.
Although the severity of hot weather varies each season, Tucker said she wants to make sure all residents are prepared for the potential of scorching temperatures.
"You never know," she said. "You get these heat waves and sometimes you could have a week or even two weeks where every single day your heat index is over 105 (degrees) during the middle of the day, and that's very dangerous, especially for elderly people and also for young children."
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