A common joke about weather in the Midwest is that if you don’t like it, all you have to do is wait 10 minutes, and it is sure to fluctuate. Missouri found this out in a rather heavy-handed way earlier this week, as the first days of seasonal summer brought a heat wave that pushed temperatures up into the mid-nineties, and heat indexes well beyond 100 degrees Fahrenheit. And while the heat can be a blessing or a nuisance depending on personal taste, it can also be a detrimental health risk.
According to the St. Louis Department of Health’s Shontae Fluelen-Hays, the elderly, children and those with pre-existing conditions are most at risk during a heat wave because of waning health and dependency on others.
Department of Public Health and Human Services Public Information Officer Andrea Waner also cited those three groups as the most susceptible to the heat. She said that the Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services will provide the public of several cooling centers open to any individual looking to escape the heat.
“We recommend that if you need a break, take a break,” Waner said. “There’s no stigma. We’re not going to ask you when you come in the door if you’re here for using the cooling center.”
Columbia Public Library Public Relations Manager Mitzi St. John said the library provides entertainment and a variety of services including reading materials and computers with internet access.
“Since we are a public building and there are people coming and going in the library for a variety of reasons, we don’t know if they’re here because they are looking for a particular book that they want to check out, or whether they are trying to get some shelter from the heat outside,” St. John said.
Waner said electric fans are useful for increasing comfort, but shouldn’t be used as a primary cooling device during a heat wave and reminds the public not to leave children or pets in a vehicle. For more information on staying cool during the summer, visit the City of Columbia website at www.gocolumbiamo.com/health.