Municipalities could see tough weekend with heat

FRAMINGHAM, Mass. — By noon Thursday, the temperature sign at Sullivan Tire on Union Avenue breached the 100 degree mark.

“That’s hot,” said Framingham resident Brian Spinks. “That’s really hot.”

And forecasters say it will stay hot through the weekend — and likely into Monday, as well — with at least the possibility of a five-day heat wave.

“It’s been brutal,” Spinks said. “Probably one of the worst summers that I can remember in a long time.”

It has certainly been a memorable summer, thus far. Last month, the region endured one its longest heat waves ever — when for seven days in July, temperatures reached 90 degrees or better.

“We definitely saw a lot of people coming in with heat-related issues,” said Andrew Eyre, MD, an Emergency Department physician at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “Especially folks who were not used to being out in warm weather as much, people who had been working all day — jobs like construction. I saw an older gentleman who walked a fairly long distance and just wasn’t used to that level of heat.”

Eyre said he expects the ED will see similar cases coming in over the weekend — even though heat-related illnesses can be wholly preventable.

“When the weather gets this hot, it’s really important to think about when you’re planning activities and also think about the duration of those activities,” Eyre said.

And it’s also important to pay attention to fluid intake, he said.

“When our bodies tell us we’re thirsty, it’s best to drink,” Eyre said. “If you are significantly dehydrated, it can affect your heart, it can affect your blood vessels, it can affect your brain and it can affect your kidneys which can cause all sorts of other issues.”

Those issues can involve imbalances of electrolytes — sodium, potassium and other elements that are crucial for proper functioning of such important muscles as the heart. But at the same time, Eyre said it can be dangerous to over-hydrate because it can lead to a condition known as hyponatremia — a sodium deficiency that can lead to serious cardiac outcomes.

To help prevent heat-related illness, Framingham established three cooling centers — two at local libraries and one at the senior center.

“The library is a center for community, at the end of the day,” said Framingham Library Director Lena Kilburn. “And whatever we need to respond to help out the community, whether it’s information or programming or enrichment opportunities for education, we respond. Sometimes that means responding to situations where folks need support and in this case it’s because it’s super hot out.”

The cooling centers not only offer an air conditioned space, but also free bottles of water.

Framingham Mayor Charlie Sisitsky said multiple days of hot weather are more difficult for municipalities than even snowstorms.

“We have a large community, over 70,000 population — all age groups, a lot of senior citizens, a lot of immigrant people that don’t speak the language very well and we’re worried about them,” Sisitsky said.

Aside from physical health — Sisitsky said there are also concerns about mental well-being when the weather is insufferably hot.

“After a while people get stressed out over the heat and tempers flare,” he said. “And we could have some unfortunate incidents not directly related to the heat, but the stress is there and we’re concerned about that.”

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