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St. Louis, St. Louis County open cooling centers for people to beat the heat

Tony Bartleson attemps to lure his dog, Murphy, into the water at Kerth Fountain in Forest Park on Thursday, July 5.
Sarah Fentem | St. Louis Public Radio
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The National Weather Service has issued a heat advisory for the St. Louis region, where temperatures are expected to reach 105 degrees from Friday through Sunday. Area officials warn vulnerable residents to stay hydrated and limit outdoor activities.

St. Louis and St. Louis County officials set up cooling centers in libraries, gyms and community spaces to protect the most vulnerable people from this week's heat wave.

Elderly people, children, those who are homeless and people with medical conditions that might be exacerbated by extreme weather conditions are urged to take precaution Friday through Sunday, as the National Weather Service predicts that temperatures may exceed 105 degrees in some parts of the region.

Officials recommend that people who can work indoors stay indoors during the hottest parts of the day. They also warn that children and seniors should limit outdoor activities throughout the day.

“Particularly, if you're at home, don't look at cutting your grass or doing heavy yard work or home maintenance, that's going to be requiring you to be outside in the direct sunlight,” said Sarah Russell, St. Louis Emergency Management commissioner. “ And if you do have to be outside, make sure that you're hydrating and taking breaks in the shade and also air conditioning when possible.”

Over 25 cooling centers in St. Louis and St. Louis County will provide access to air-conditioned spaces, restrooms, sleeping areas, water fountains and snacks. To help people escape the heat, some Salvation Army locations, including the Family Haven center off Page Avenue, will also provide overnight shelter that are equipped with beds and showers.

Many people do not understand what heat can do to the body, said Kjell Steinsland, general secretary for Salvation Army for Missouri and Southern Illinois.

“The heat can dilate the blood vessels and cause the heart to work harder,” Steinsland said. “People can get dehydrated and they can pass out, so we don't always give much thought to the high heat.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heat-related deaths are common each summer in the U.S. Some factors that might increase the risk of developing heat-related illnesses include heart disease, drug or alcohol abuse, obesity, fever, high levels of humidity, sunburn and mental illness.

In St. Louis County, there have been two heat-related deaths so far this year. There have been no deaths related to heat in St. Louis this year.

To keep people from dying from heat exhaustion or heat stroke, city and county officials are encouraging people to run air conditioning units throughout the day or visit cool places for periods of time. Residents can apply for utility assistance if they need help paying higher energy bills.

“We'd like to encourage people to be as ready as possible and to try and make plans for you know, these warm days make plans to check on your loved ones and your neighbors, make sure folks are using their air conditioner, if they have it,” Russell said.

Follow Andrea on Twitter: @drebjournalist

Andrea covers race, identity & culture at St. Louis Public Radio.

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