Dangerous heat to linger in Upper Valley for days

By CHRISTINA DOLAN

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 06-17-2024 7:02 PM

LEBANON— A period of extreme heat is bearing down on the Upper Valley, with temperatures expected to reach into the upper 90s this week and heat index values exceeding 100 degrees.

The National Weather Service has issued a heat advisory from noon Tuesday to 8 p.m. Thursday.

“In some areas, these will be the warmest temperatures we’ve seen for multiple days in a row since 1988,” Maureen Hastings, a meteorologist with the federal agency, said Monday.

There won’t be much relief overnight, either, as nighttime temperatures will be in the 70s and humid, she said.

The cause of this week’s heatwave is an “anomalously warm air mass,” Hastings added.

Health and emergency management officials are urging people to take precautions, especially if they work outside, have health conditions, such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s, or cardiovascular disease. The unhoused and people who don’t have access to air conditioning are also particularly vulnerable. 

“We encourage people, if they know someone who is living alone, to check in and ask about symptoms of heat illness,” Mark Bradley, executive director of the White River Council on Aging, said Monday.

Indications of heat exhaustion include dizziness, headache, fatigue, muscle cramps and nausea or vomiting, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

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“Dehydration is the main thing we’re concerned about in older adults,” Kristin Barnum, executive director of Community Nurse Connection in Lebanon, said Monday. The resulting dizziness can lead to falls and injuries, she said.

For those living outside, in cars, tents, or under bridges, this stretch of intense weather is cause for concern. “The challenge is the heat going on for three to four days and the heat index being so high,” Upper Valley Haven Executive Director Michael Redmond said. “The prolonged exposure is a serious health risk.” 

Although it’s closed Wednesday for the Juneteenth holiday, the nonprofit Haven will be open Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday to provide showers and water to people in need. “We are unfortunately without capacity to provide a cooling space,” Redmond said.

Throughout the Upper Valley, libraries, senior centers, and some municipal buildings will be used as cooling shelters. Residents should call to confirm hours of operation.

The Lebanon Memorial Pool will be free to residents from Tuesday through Thursday.

The Upper Valley Senior Center in downtown Lebanon will give out water, provided by the city’s fire department and the Lebanon Municipal Airport terminal building will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. throughout the week. 

In Hartford, The Sherman Manning Aquatic Facility will have extended hours Tuesday through Thursday, from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. for public swimming and use of the splash pad.

For people who work outside, the three-day heat wave could be challenging.  

“We’ll definitely get less done,” HP Roofing owner Jeff Acker, of Hanover, said Monday.

Although his crews are used to working in all kinds of weather, “at a certain point the extreme heat becomes too much,” he said. Roofing crews will start earlier and finish earlier than usual, and take extra precautions to stay hydrated, he said.

Anne Sprague, owner of Edgewater Farms in Plainfield, was more stoic. “No one likes when it’s hot-hot,” she said, “but we’re all used to working outside.”

 Edgewater’s pick-your-own strawberry fields and its farming operations will follow their regular hours, and any changes will be made on a day-to-day basis.

“We have no idea what’s going to happen,” to the strawberries, which can be vulnerable to very-high temperatures, Sprague said, “so we’ll continue to pick through the heat wave.”

The timing and duration the hot weather are dangerous not just for humans, but for songbirds, including robins, cardinals, blue jays, and sparrows. While other birds are long finished with their spring nesting, songbirds are just now busy feeding their newly-hatched nestlings,

With no feathers to help them regulate body temperatures, the baby birds can become stressed and susceptible to heat stroke and heat illness, said Susan Greenleaf, executive director of the St. Francis Wild Bird Hospital in Lebanon.

“I’m not optimistic. I’m predicting a widespread loss of hatchlings,” she said.

Greenleaf recommends that people try to avoid noisy and disruptive activity — lawn mowing and weed-whacking — during the stretch of intense heat, to reduce stress on both the baby birds and their parents. Leaving out fresh, non-chlorinated water can be helpful as well, she said.

While emergency management organizations prepare for the acute impact of this early shock of hot weather, those who work in fields related to climate change are concerned about keeping this anomaly from becoming a more regular occurrence.

“All the indicators are that we’re going to have hotter weather for longer periods,” Kevin Geiger, chief planner at the Two Rivers-Ottauquechee Regional Commission said.

As the average number of 90-degree and above days increases, what people consider unusual could become the norm. “In our children’s lives, this will not be an unusual event,” Geiger said. “We could have some humdingers of heatwaves coming.”

The most common locations for cooling shelters are senior centers, public libraries, and municipal buildings. Call your town offices for information or call 211 to access information about cooling shelters and other services.

The Vermont Health Department’s website provides resources for staying safe during hot weather a map of locations to cool off, which can be found at: healthvermont.gov/environment/climate-health/hot-weather.

Additional information about heat emergencies and heat illness may be found at readynh.gov/disasters/extreme-heat.htm.

Anyone requiring immediate assistance or suffering a heat emergency should call 911 immediately.

Christina Dolan can be reached at cdolan@vnews.com or (603) 727-3208