Heat wave hits southern Minnesota, A.L.

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 31, 2006

By Kari Lucin, staff writer

Despite the punishing heat, just three people sheltered Sunday afternoon at the Freeborn County American Red Cross chapter’s cooling center during the heat advisory scheduled to last until 7 p.m. Tuesday.

The cooling center was open from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, and will be open again today at the Red Cross office at the west end of Fountain Street during the same time period.

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&8220;You’ve got the library and the mall and Wal-Mart,&8221; said Red Cross volunteer Stephanie Vollum, explaining the low attendance for the cooling center.

Vollum heard many seniors had gone to Wal-Mart during the hottest part of the day, to chat and have a cup of coffee in the air-conditioned shopping center.

This was the first time the Freeborn County Red Cross had opened a cooling center, at the request of the Minnesota Department of Health, working through Freeborn County’s Public Health Department.

The Red Cross advises people to drink plenty of cold water during the heat wave. They should also avoid alcohol and caffeine, which dehydrate the body. People should stay in the shade as much as possible if they must go out, and they should avoid strenuous exercises. Going back and forth between air conditioned areas and outdoors can also be tough on the body and can cause headaches.

Those most endangered by the heat are seniors and people with heart conditions, but the heat puts stress on everyone’s bodies.

The heat index &045; how hot it feels &045; for today is expected to climb to 110. The high will be near 97, but relief is in sight, with a chance of thunderstorms tonight, Tuesday and Tuesday night. Temperatures are projected to drop to a high of 83 degrees Wednesday.

The National Weather Service says heat kills about 175 Americans each year, and usually in regions less accustomed to the hot weather. The service also said with heat indices higher that 105 degrees, heat stroke, sunstroke and heat exhaustion are possible with prolonged exposure or physical activity.

More than 8,300 Xcel Energy customers in Minnesota were without power Sunday night, but by 7 a.m. today, the company had returned power to all but 2,300 of them.

Spokesman Paul Adelmann said parts of south Minneapolis were without power until 4 a.m. because of a cable failure. He also said some overloads were knocking out electricity to some houses and blocks around the metro.

Temperatures are expected to be near triple digits in the metro area and dew points are expected to be high Monday, making it uncomfortable, said Matt Friedlein, a meteorologist at the weather service’s Chanhassen office on Sunday. The heat index in Monday afternoon will approach 105 to 110, he said.

But the record high of 105 degrees for July 30 set during the drought year of 1988 will be just a little bit out of reach, he said. Sunday’s high in the metro area was 98 degrees, two degrees short of the record temperature for the day.

Northern Minnesota is expecting temperatures in the lower to mid-90s Monday. The highs in Duluth could reach 95, breaking the record 93 degrees for the day, said Peter Parke, meteorologist in Duluth.

&8220;We have one more real toasty day coming tomorrow,&8221; Friedlein said.

But officials expect temperatures to decline starting Tuesday, with highs of 90s in the Twin Cities and mid-80s in northern Minnesota. Slight chances of showers and thunder storm are forecast for Tuesday and Tuesday night.

The average temperature for July was 78.7 degrees as of Saturday night, compared with the average of 73.2 degrees in the metro area, Friedlein said. The warmest July was in 1936, when the average temperature reached 81.4 degrees.

&045; The Associated Press contributed to this story.