When summer temperatures hit dangerous heights, the city of Dallas typically sets up indoor cooling stations to give residents a place to escape the heat and enjoy free water and air conditioning.
But as Dallas faces a stretch of 100-degree days, the city has not set up cooling stations. A Salvation Army official said that agency plans to open 13 stations soon.
Tristan Hallman, spokesman for Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson, said Friday that while city has not activated cooling stations, the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center is open as a shelter for the homeless.
Hallman did not clarify why cooling stations had not been set up for this weekend, and the city’s public affairs office did not respond to multiple requests for comment this week from The Dallas Morning News.
The Summer continues today with heat index values climbing to around 105 this afternoon. Remember to stay hydrated and take frequent breaks if you spend time outdoors. #txwx pic.twitter.com/pg21ttDMjO— NWS Fort Worth (@NWSFortWorth) July 10, 2020
Cooling stations are frequented most often by one of the city’s most vulnerable populations — the homeless.
More than 600 Americans die each year from heat-related illnesses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition to the homeless, people over age 65, outdoor workers, athletes, infants and people in low-income households are among the most vulnerable.
“Definitely with extreme heat, it’s an important consideration,” Dr. Philip Huang, Dallas County’s health director, said of cooling stations.
The Salvation Army normally opens cooling stations during extreme heat, but it had yet to do so in Dallas-Fort Worth as of Friday afternoon. The agency plans to open 13 by this weekend or early next week, agency spokesman Kurt Watkins said.
When city cooling stations do open, Huang said, it will be important to follow federal coronavirus safety guidelines by keeping people at least 6 feet apart, conducting health screenings and requiring masks.
The Salvation Army’s cooling stations will follow safety protocols, Watkins said. Staff and volunteers will frequently disinfect areas and will be trained to spot signs of heat-related illnesses, he said.
Stations typically are set up at city recreation centers anytime a stretch of days with intense heat is forecast and during heat advisories.
All of North Texas — including Dallas, Collin, Denton and Tarrant counties — is under a heat advisory through 8 p.m Sunday, and it could be extended, said Matt Stalley, a National Weather Service meteorologist.
Temperatures are forecast to climb into the 100s over the next few days, Stalley said. Factoring in humidity, temps are expected to feel in the 105- to 110-degree range during peak hours.
“There will be little relief from the heat during this time period,” he said.
The weather service urged North Texans to take extra precautions when working or spending time outside this weekend.