As U.S. heat wave breaks records, cooling centers offer relief

(Reuters News, 21 Jul 2019) Officials implored everyone to stay inside as much as possible and be alert for the signs of heat stroke.

With a record-breaking heat wave intensifying over much of the U.S. Midwest and East Coast through the weekend, it was a bad time for Annie McQueen's air conditioner to break down in her New York City apartment.

Cities across the affected regions have opened public cooling centers, and after a sticky night in which the combined forces of a ceiling fan and a floor fan in her bedroom offered little relief, McQueen, 76, headed to one of them on Sunday at a senior center in downtown Brooklyn.

She sat smiling near the door of the Raices Times Plaza Neighborhood Senior Center, beyond which the air was predicted to cook up to a high of 98 degrees Fahrenheit (36.7°C), though it would feel more like 110 degrees F (43.3°C) with the humidity, according to the National Weather Service.

Inside, old Christmas decorations fluttered in the breeze near the cooling system's ceiling vents. "It feels just right," McQueen said. Lunch was three different varieties of salads.

"I have multiple sclerosis, so the heat's no good for me," said Pascual Valle, a 63-year-old retired doorman who had just lost another game of dominoes. "It makes me weak. It just sucks everything out of my body."

He had driven his motorized wheelchair the half a block to the center when it opened at 9 a.m., felt rejuvenated soon after, and did not plan to venture outside again until it closed at 5 p.m. City emergency officials sent crates of bottled water and Gatorade to hand out to anyone who dropped in to cool off.

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Reuters News, 21 Jul 2019: As U.S. heat wave breaks records, cooling centers offer relief