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With Libraries And Movie Theaters Closed, N.H. Cities Weigh Options For Places To Beat the Heat

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New Hampshire has few places left open for people to cool off during this week's heat wave.

Phil Alexakos, Chief Operations Officer for the Manchester Health Department, says if temperatures reach what is considered “extreme heat,” the city may have to create designated cooling centers.

“And we would have to do that now with the lens of properly distancing folks,” he says. “So that’s what we’re going to be working on is looking at our existing plans and making sure that they take into account proper distancing and precautions and screenings.”

Alexakos says the COVID-19 pandemic has his department thinking differently about how they’d respond to a heat wave or any other natural disaster.

To beat the heat, Alexakos recommends people drink lots of water, stay out of direct sunlight, and take frequent breaks when working outside. He also urges people to check in with loved ones and neighbors who may be particularly vulnerable to high temperatures, such as the elderly.

In Nashua, Emergency Management Director Justin Kates says the city won’t set up public cooling stations until a national heat advisory is declared. In that event, the city might set up cooling centers in places like malls, as long as they can follow the state's reopening rules.

This week’s early-season season heat follows a pattern of warming, driven by greenhouse gas emissions, that’s occurring in New England and around the world.

Data compiled by the nonprofit Climate Central shows that in Concord, the first day above 80 degrees now comes about twelve days earlier than it did in 1970. Summer days in Concord have gotten two degrees hotter on average since 1970, and summer nights have warmed three degrees, on average.

A 2019 study by the Union of Concerned Scientists found that by 2100, without efforts to curb carbon emissions, New Hampshire could see nearly 50 days a year that feel hotter than 90 degrees. It now experiences only a few of these days on an average year.

That study said the state could also begin to see ten to 20 days a year with heat indexes above 100 degrees, which can pose serious health risks.

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