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Local nonprofits offer cooling centers to beat the heat

by Caitlan Butler | June 14, 2022 at 12:00 a.m.

Today is set to be another hot one, and some local nonprofits are working to help local residents beat the heat.

Champagnolle Landing and the Salvation Army are both open as cooling centers this week, with free air conditioning available amid the upper-90s temperatures El Dorado is facing.

Heat is among the most deadly weather conditions faced in this region, and according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, more than 600 Americans die as a result of heat-related illness each year.

Temperatures are expected to hit highs of 95 degrees and higher through Friday, and the weekend won't be much better, when the National Weather Service has forecast highs of 94 degrees. A heat advisory was in effect on Monday, indicating that safety measures should be taken when outdoors.

The heat index today was forecast to be as high as 102 degrees, meaning it feels like 102 degrees with the heat and humidity combined.

Seniors 60 years or older in need of a place to cool off are being welcomed at Champagnolle Landing Wellness Center, 910 Champagnolle Rd. The center will be open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Call 870-862-2230 for more information about Champagnolle Landing's cooling center.

The Salvation Army is open to the general public, said corps officer Major David Robinson.

"Anybody can come in and we'll have some water available," he said. "They can come in the A/C and cool off a little bit."

Robinson said there are no pre-requisites for those who stop by to cool off. They may be asked to sign in so the nonprofit can track how many people come by, but that's all.

"They can come in the front door -- can come in and just say they're here to cool off. We'll get them a bottle of water and let them relax a little bit," he said. "Just come on up."

Robinson said the Salvation Army is currently in need of canned foods and non-perishable food items, like canned meats, macaroni and cheese, rice and beans, and will also welcome monetary donations.

"With it heating up, the request for utility assistance has gone through the roof. Our cost for utilities has gone through the roof. Any monetary donations would help us help with the community," he said. "We don't want people to forget we're here serving the community, but we can't do it without community support."

For those who can't avoid getting outside in the coming days, the Arkansas Department of Health offered several tips on Monday for staying safe, including:

- Wearing loose fitting, light clothing

- Drinking water often, not just when you feel thirsty

- Avoiding unnecessary hard, outdoor work

- Avoiding sun exposure by wearing a hat and sunglasses when outside

- Wearing sunscreen

According to the ADH, heat-related illness can range from heat rash, characterized by clusters of small, red blisters on the skin, to heat stroke, where one may experience a fast, strong pulse, headache, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, confusion and fainting and which requires emergency medical intervention.

Other heat stress illnesses can include heat exhaustion, which has similar symptoms to heat stroke and which should be treated by medical professionals if vomiting occurs; heat cramps, which are characterized by intense muscle pain or spasms; and sunburn, when the skin is burnt from sun exposure.

If one experience signs of heat-related illness, the ADH recommends moving to a cool place and drinking water while resting. If the symptoms do not go away, one should seek medial help. For sunburns, the ADH recommends moisturizing lotion and a cool bath, and not to break any blisters that come up.

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