High temps have Houstonians trying to beat the heat

June 27, 2012 5:06:57 AM PDT
It's only the second day of triple-digit temperatures and Houstonians are fighting to stay cool. But one organization is making the battle easier for seniors stuck indoors.

ABC13 Meteorologist Travis Herzog says Tuesday's temperature of 105 degrees ties the all-time record high for June, set last summer, and breaks the daily record high of 104° from 2009.

ERCOT is asking consumers to conserve electricity until 7pm Tuesday. The agency says extreme heat is creating tight capacity.

Not everyone can make it out to the public pools to keep cool right now. We found out agencies across the area are busy getting calls from people looking for fans. On Tuesday, we traveled with one of those agencies checking up on some of the area's most vulnerable neighbors in this heat.

On hot and humid days like this, triple-digit temperatures can be brutal on folks like Margaret Gaines.

"With me having asthma and stuff, it's definitely hard on me," said Gaines.

The disabled cancer survivor can't leave her home right now, and the only air conditioner she has to keep her small house in the Fourth Ward cool stopped working last week.

"I've got three fans running, the ceiling fan, the box fan, and a little fan on my dresser. And I've got some cubes of ice that you put into a towel and try to stay cool like that," Gaines said.

And she isn't the only homebound person fighting to keep cool right now. That's why workers with Meals on Wheels are taking extra time to check on seniors during this heat wave.

"It's real hot. It's been up in the 100s," said Charles Sanchez.

Sixty-five Meals on Wheels drivers with Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston deliver food to about 4,500 people every day. Now the extreme heat has them checking on their clients to make sure they are healthy and safe.

"A lot of these seniors, some of them do have air conditioning, some don't. Some can't afford to run their air conditioning," said Andrea Fineman with Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston.

Gaines is getting a little extra help to keep her home cool. Her Meals on Wheels driver just delivered her a donated fan.

"I appreciate that. I need all the air I can get," said Gaines.

All city pools are open from 1pm to 8pm.

The city of Houston has designated five cooling centers across the city. To find the location nearest you, call 311.

Also, the city is partnering with the United Way of Greater Houston to issue air conditioners to needy families. To inquire about eligibility criteria, call 211.

Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston is accepting fan donations which will be delivered to needy families. To donate a fan, you may contact IMGH.org.

Tips to beat the heat

To avoid straining the electric system, the folks that run the Texas power grid are urging you to conserve energy during this heat wave. And an effort is underway to help the homeless stay safe in these scorching temperatures.

ABC13 Chief Meteorologist Tim Heller said Houston also tied a record with 102 degrees on Monday. The National Weather Service said Galveston hit its hottest ever June temperature. Monday's high of 100 broke the old record by four degrees. According to the NWS, the mercury has never climbed to 100 degrees in Galveston in the month of June before Monday. Palacios and Angleton also breached 100 degrees.

So how are Houstonians staying cool?

The heat is making it uncomfortable for many outside but it hasn't necessarily stopped people from doing things they enjoy.

A lot of people who are outdoors are searching for ways they can stay a bit cooler -- from eating ice cream to taking a paddle boat ride.

We also talked with a group of ladies golfing Monday at Hermann Park. While people are still participating in outdoor activities they are making some changes by staying more hydrated and taking breaks, finding shade when they can and it can certainly take its toll on your performance.

"It does, it bothers me. If you notice, we keep it in the shade and if you go in the shade you're twenty degrees cooler and we hydrate very well," said one golfer with whom we spoke. "For the worse, we don't play as well in the heat."

"My husband walks and carries his bags. We played both yesterday and Saturday and carried his clubs," said another golfer.

It's not just people trying to do what they can to stay cool. Tucker, an Asian elephant at the Houston Zoo, loved getting a big drink and going for a swim on Monday afternoon.

The Star of Hope was out Monday distributing bottles of water to homeless persons in their 'Love in Action' van, making several stops where the homeless congregate. The bottles carry a special message of inspiration as well. The Star of Hope says with the heat they already are seeing big numbers of people in need, also at their shelter. They say they have never seen so many this early in the summer.

"Most people don't realize that in the summer we have more homeless than we do any other time of the year. And also in the summer is when our donations are at our lowest. So we need help to make this a summer of hope for Houston's homeless," said Scott Arthur, Public Relations Director at Star of Hope.

On a typical day, the Star of Hope helps about 1,100 homeless people. Of course, that number increases at times like these.

If you'd like to help, you can donate to Star of Hope through their website.

Reliant Energy has opened 'Beat the Heat' centers around the Houston area:

  • Acres Homes Multi-Service Center, 6719 W. Montgomery, 77091 - 713-694-9274
  • Denver Harbor Multi-Service Center, 6402 Market Street, 77020 - 713-670-2143
  • Northeast Multi-Service Center, 9720 Spaulding 77016 - 713-491-5500
  • Southwest Multi-Service Center, 6400 High Star, 77074 - 713-778-6500
  • Sunnyside Multi-Service Center, 4605 Wilmington Street, 77051 - 713-732-5030

Reliant Energy provides assistance during the summer for customers whose bills become so high they cannot afford to pay the entire thing at once. Other energy providers also often provide some type of assistance program.

The Houston Department of Health and Human Services recommends people begin taking precautions against high heat and humidity to prevent illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Doctors say the elderly and children are most at risk for heat-related illnesses.

To prevent heat-related illnesses:

  • Increase water consumption. Drink lots of liquids even before getting thirsty, but avoid those with caffeine, alcohol or large amounts of sugar because these can actually result in the loss of body fluid.
  • Conduct outdoor work or exercise in the early morning or evening when it is cooler. Outdoor workers should drink plenty of water or electrolyte-replacement beverages and take frequent breaks in the shade or in an air-conditioned facility. People unaccustomed to working or exercising in a hot environment need to start slowly and gradually increase heat exposure over several weeks.
  • Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing that permits the evaporation of perspiration.
  • Do not leave children, senior citizens or pets unattended in a vehicle.
  • A wide-brimmed hat helps prevent sunburn as well as heat-related illness. Sunscreen also protects from the sun's harmful rays and reduces the risk of sunburn.
  • If the house is not air-conditioned, seek accommodations in air-conditioned facilities during the heat of the day: multi-service centers, malls, movie theaters, libraries, etc.
  • Take frequent cool baths or showers if your home is not air-conditioned.

Stay alert to heat advisories. The National Weather Service declares a Heat Emergency when the heat index, a computation of the air temperature and humidity, reaches 108 degrees on two or more consecutive days. A heat index of 108 is a potential health threat for all people and is particularly dangerous for high-risk groups.

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