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Cooling stations help locals beat the heat

SMOKEY POINT — Marysville responded to record-high temperatures the week of July 27-31 by opening locations as “cooling stations” during many or all of those days.

The Marysville Fire District opened Shoultes Station 62 and Sunnyside Station 66 to the public as cooling stations during the week, by keeping their air-conditioned conference rooms dimly lit and unlocked for as many as 12 hours each day. As for the Marysville Library, it would seem that many visitors tend to regard it as a place to cool down during the summer regardless of whether it’s designated as a “cooling station” or not.

“We’ve maintained our regular hours, and our whole building is air-conditioned so this doesn’t really change much for us,” said Eric Spencer, managing librarian for the Marysville Library. “We got the call from Mayor [Dennis] Kendall on Monday, asking us to post an official designation, but the library is always a nice, available sheltering space. We’re so busy anyway during the summer that we haven’t really noticed a difference in attendance.”

Not only is this summer the hottest that Spencer can recall in the area, but it reminded him of the heat that he felt while attending college in New Mexico. Although the vending machines stock cold drinks, he responded positively to suggestions that the library could also make free bottled water available.

“It’s just another example of the many ways that your public libraries can serve you,” Spencer said. “Sit back in a cushy chair, grab a magazine, get out of the heat and relax. This is a place where you can step away from the day-to-day world and enjoy a great new book.”

Smokey Point resident Danise Bell didn’t even know that the library had been designated as a cooling station, when she, her husband, their daughter and her daughter’s boyfriend stopped by to return some checked-out books July 30, but they wound up spending at least an hour in the library, in part to browse through new books, but also to bask in the cooler temperatures.

“I don’t remember it being this hot in California,” Bell said. “This is desert weather.”

Bell explained that she and her family planned to beat the heat for the rest of the week by “making a travel tour” through malls and other local stores where they could count on finding air-conditioning, including Costco and Wal-Mart.

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.”

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