Cooling stations help locals beat the heat

ARLINGTON — The Arlington community responded to record-high temperatures the week of July 27-31 by opening several locations as “cooling stations” during many or all of those days.

The Stillaguamish Senior Center in Smokey Point saw a spike in attendance during the week, as soon as it labeled itself a “cooling station” July 27, and wound up staying open until 8 p.m. that day to serve an estimated 20 people. Senior Center Executive Director Jo Olson and Volunteer Programs Coordinator Karen Kay explained that the Center had “juggled rooms around” to ensure that those in need of a cooling station would be accommodated through the week, even as they continued to offer their other programs.

“We’ll probably have 20-25 people coming in for the cooling station today,” Kay said July 30. “Folks are getting used to us staying open later for it. We have bottled water and a cooler here, and we’ve been taking water to our thrift store and apartments.”

Olson noted that parents with small children have joined elderly residents at their tables for Yahtzee, bridge and pinocle, with Kay predicting that the July 30 pinocle games would offer passersby sanctuary from the hot summer sun until 8:30 p.m. Olson and Kay have more than 100 years of living in Washington state between them, and like everyone else interviewed, they couldn’t recall it ever being this hot in Western Washington.

Caregiver Lynn Carter took her elderly patient, Mildred Hiatt, to the Stillaguamish Senior Center to cool down and play Yahtzee July 30. They began play at 12:30 p.m. and expected to stay until 5 p.m., when Carter would have to return Hiatt to her non-air-conditioned home.

“We’ve had maybe one or two days that were close to this hot before, but never like this, for this long,” Carter said. “When I got to Mildred’s place, it was 90 degrees inside her house. She needed to escape that heat. We’ll see about stopping someplace to eat on the way back, but only if it has air-conditioning. I’m glad there are places like this, that are available to the elderly especially. I have air-conditioning, and it’s hard enough on me.”

The Arlington City Council Chambers offered free bottled water, courtesy of the Arlington Safeway and Haggen stores, as well as an oversized TV screen broadcasting Northwest Cable News. Chris Jones was manning the cooling station in the Council Chambers for the city of Arlington, and while he’s experienced scorching temperatures in Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, nothing in his nine years of living in this area prepared him to experience such high temperatures here.

“In the South, you had higher humidity, but both types of heat are draining,” Jones said. “We had vacation Bible school outdoors because of it.”

Diane Christiansen and Karen Aurand both work in an office just across the street from the Chambers on Olympic Avenue, and at 4 p.m. on July 30, they both decided that they’d had enough.

“It’s a new building with little windows,” Aurand said July 30. “We had air-conditioning, but it was quickly overwhelmed, and it got to be 95 degrees in the office. I’m taking Friday off and spending it in the basement,” she laughed. “In the meantime, I’m thankful for this cool-down.”

“I’m off Friday, too,” Christiansen said. “I’ll be putting a cold rag on my head. We won’t stay here long, maybe half an hour to an hour, but it’s good to get a little bit of a break.”

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