The oppressive heat and humidity that’s expected to bake New Hampshire has prompted several communities to announce plans to offer cooling centers.
Heat advisories and warnings are possible beginning Friday as temperatures climb into the lower 90s and a humid air mass settles over the region.
Forecasters say the worst of the heat will come Saturday, when the combination of temperatures in the upper 90s and high humidity levels will make it feel like over 100 degrees in central and southern parts of the state.
The extreme heat is a concern for local officials, who spent Wednesday making plans for places where people without air conditioning can stay cool and hydrated while potentially preventing health problems.
“Heat like what’s forecast for this weekend can be extremely exhausting and dangerous, especially for those who are more susceptible to heat-related illnesses,” Bedford Police Chief John J. Bryfonski said.
Bedford is one of the communities that will use its safety complex at 55 Constitution Drive for a cooling and water station 24 hours a day from Friday through Sunday.
The Bedford Public Library will also be available as a cooling station during regular hours on Friday and Saturday.
Epping Fire Chief Don DeAngelis said the fire station at 37 Pleasant St. will also be opened as a cooling station Friday through Sunday because of concerns for the elderly and those with compromised health.
He stressed the importance of offering a cool place for anyone who needs it, even though few people have used the cooling station in the past.
More people are likely to show up at a town warming center during winter months when power may go out for an extended period, DeAngelis said, but even then most prefer to stay in their homes.
“Times have changed. Now they just want a place to recharge their phone, get a shower and go home,” he said.
In Manchester, the William B. Cashin Senior Center, located at 151 Douglas St., and the West Manchester Branch Library, at 76 N. Main St., will be open to the public for cooling purposes on Friday. The Manchester City Library, at 405 Pine St., will be available Friday and Saturday.
The Hudson Police Department plans to open the Ann Seabury Community Room, which is located within the police station at 1 Constitution Drive, beginning Friday at 3 p.m. through Sunday night.
Dover Recreation Director Gary Bannon said he was in discussions with the city’s fire chief Wednesday about the possibility of opening the McConnell Center at 61 Locust St. to anyone needing a place to beat the heat.
Bannon said that during past heat waves he’s seen an average of five to 10 people stopping by at different times during the day trying to keep cool.
“Typically there’s only a few people that have taken advantage of it. People will come in and stay for a little bit,” he said.
While the cooling centers get little use, Bannon said it’s still good to have options for people who don’t have a place to go.
A cooling station will be open at the Newmarket Public Library on Saturday, and if there’s still a need on Sunday, it will be moved to the fire station.
“We just feel that it is a safe place for anyone to come in and cool off if necessary. We have not had much use, but most of the time, it’s in the middle of the week and people are working. We do see an increase in the senior center use when it happens,” Newmarket Town Administrator Steve Fournier said.
In Plaistow, Town Manager Mark Pearson said the town has offered temporary cooling and heating stations during extreme temperatures in the past.
While the town publicized a cooling station the last time one was opened last year, Pearson said no one showed up.
“Plaistow can only offer limited hours at a couple of our buildings during mostly business hours. If the temperatures rise over the next couple of days, the emergency management director and I will collaborate and make an announcement to the public of the location and hours of operation,” he said.
Plaistow doesn’t have a facility where it can offer overnight accommodations during hot and cold events, but Pearson said the town is exploring options for a building in town that could be used as an overnight emergency shelter with heating and cooling, a backup generator and showers.
Heat safety tips
Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids, especially water.
Avoid hot foods and heavy meals; they add heat to your body.
Check on people you know who do not have air conditioning.
Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
Stay indoors and avoid strenuous exercise during the hottest part of the day, typically around 3 p.m.
Take frequent breaks if working outdoors.
Be alert for heat stroke and heat exhaustion.