When Seattle hit a hot, dry spell early last month, seniors headed to their neighborhood senior centers for table fans, free iced tea and...
When Seattle hit a hot, dry spell early last month, seniors headed to their neighborhood senior centers for table fans, free iced tea and a little company.
Not this time.
As temperatures hit 97 degrees Tuesday and are headed toward record levels today, many seniors are staying home rather than venturing out in hot cars or buses to Seattle’s senior centers, most of which are not air-conditioned anyway.
Instead, senior-center staffers are making the rounds by telephone, calling regulars and checking in, offering health tips, meals and overall “just to say ‘We’re thinking of you,’ ” said Carlye Teel, executive director of the Ballard Northwest Senior Center.
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In a region where most buildings lack air conditioning and residents see more rain than sun, multiday heat waves can have a devastating impact on seniors, the homeless and other groups. The death rate jumps about 8 percent when temperatures spike, according to the National Weather Service, though no deaths have been attributed to heat this week.
Local officials have been preparing residents for today’s expected triple-digit heat:
• Police officers are providing water to the homeless.
• Seattle City Light is monitoring electricity demand to avoid brownouts.
• Community pools extended their hours and urged people to drop by.
• The local blood bank warned of a potential shortage as it canceled drives at sites without air conditioning.
• The American Lung Association warned that children and people with asthma should limit exercise and outdoor activity.
• Mayor Greg Nickels named libraries and community centers as free, air-conditioned spots to beat the heat, though the Wallingford library is closed for refurbishing until September, and the neighborhood doesn’t have a community center.
“There is no air-conditioned spot that seniors can go to in Wallingford,” said Sara Bernson, outreach coordinator at Wallingford Community Senior Center. Sure, they could hang out in retail areas or hole up in a coffee shop, she said, “but how long can you drink a cup of coffee?”
Bernson and other staffers pulled out their 240-person membership list Tuesday morning, calling and checking in on seniors who have medical conditions or might be isolated from help in the extreme heat.
Ballard’s senior center called about 20 seniors who registered for an emergency call list that was started after last winter’s major snowstorms.
Canceled blood drives have resulted in hundreds of lost donations.
“We don’t have an emergency yet, but if we don’t get ahead of this we will,” said Michael Young, director of communications for the Puget Sound Blood Center.
Hospitals and health-care centers in Western Washington depend on about 900 donations daily to maintain supplies. If the blood level reaches a critical level, hospitals may cancel surgeries or be unable to treat accident victims, according to the blood center.
Eleven air-conditioned donor centers are open in the Seattle area. Visit www.psbc.org for more information.
Lindsay Toler: 206-464-2463 or firstname.lastname@example.org