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This weather is too hot to handle

By Kelly Catalfamo, Johanna Somers and Izaskun E. Larrañeta

Publication: theday.com

Published July 15. 2013 11:00AM   Updated July 16. 2013 9:27PM
Air-conditioned refuges, beaches providing relief

Monday’s heat didn’t set a record, but residents and officials didn’t wait to find out if it would.

They found ways to keep cool.

After a couple of years with storms that brought too much wind, rain or snow, people seemed ready to show the heat some respect, and to heed the message from Gov. Dannel P. Malloy: “A few simple steps can greatly reduce heat-related issues, especially for the elderly, the very young and people with respiratory ailments who are more susceptible to the effects of high temperatures,” said the governor in a press release.

Many local towns reached the mid-90s in the afternoon. By that time, towns had opened cooling centers in senior centers, schools and libraries. But relatively few people made use of them on the first day of a predicted week of high temperatures. A lot more took themselves and their children to the beach.

In Salem, the Congregational Church’s sign proclaimed “It’s hot! Come in to cool off.” School construction workers lounged under shady trees during their break and families packed the parking lot at Salem Valley Farms Ice Cream. The most popular destination was Gardner Lake State Park, which drew in people from nearby cities and towns.

“I actually came to get away from the ocean,” said Tammi Henrie of Mystic, who said her two daughters, ages 6 and 7, are afraid of sea creatures like crabs.

Her girls were among the kids splashing in the park’s roped-off swimming area. Amid calls of “Marco!” and “Polo!” little boys hit each other with noodles and families held water gun fights.

The water on Monday afternoon was “beautiful,” said Antonio Guitrez of Norwich. He was sprawled on a beach chair in the shade with his girlfriend, Maria, while his children, Leo and Ariana, played in the lake.

Montville teenagers Shea Badalucca, 14, and Lindsey Staplins, 13, spread out beach towels in an empty corner and explained they weren’t there for the water.

“We’re here to tan,” said Badalucca.

Keeping it cool indoors

According to the Associated Press, New England’s power grid operator says demand for electricity could close in on a seven-year record as businesses and individuals crank up their air conditioners to cope with the weeklong heat wave.

ISO-New England says the record for power use was 28,130 megawatts on Aug. 2, 2006. ISO said Monday that demand for 27,900 megawatts is possible on Thursday.

Spokeswoman Marcia Blomberg says ISO expects to have enough power to meet demand, but there’s a potential that a surplus of more than 2,000 megawatts could run thin. The Holyoke-based grid operator says it may seek emergency electricity from other regions or ask businesses to reduce power use.

Connecticut Light & Power reported very few outages during the day, with only a few towns reported to have any at all.

Although Norwich Public Utilities had not issued energy conservation requests, Public Works Director Barry Ellison asked city employees to shut off unnecessary lights and limit use of small appliances. Public works street crews will work from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. this week to avoid the hottest hours of the day.

Lee Ann Gomes, human services social work supervisor, said Norwich Rotary awarded her agency a $500 grant to pay for a few air conditioners for medically needy Norwich residents.

“We’re trying to respond to heat-related issues on a case by case basis,” Gomes said.

An air conditioning compressor failure affecting the third and fourth floors at Norwich City Hall sent some employees elsewhere to work, but a replacement is expected this morning.

All wet

By 1:30 p.m. Monday more than 580 cars were parked at the Ocean Beach Park parking lot in New London, and General Manager Dave Sugrue said he expected twice as many people today as normal — 5,000 in the daytime and 6,000 in the evening.

“Yeah, this is what we wait for, you know, nobody else likes to hear it,” Sugrue said. “We like brown grass.”

He said the park had to open up the second parking gate, which is unusual on a Monday. To park a vehicle and visit costs $15 per day during the week and $20 on the weekend. A season’s parking pass for a non-New London resident is $90.

“This is how we pay our bills,” he said.

Dedra Jackson of Hartford said she was down at the park with her twin nephews from Kentucky to escape the heat.

“In Hartford, it’s brutal, it’s like 94 degrees but hazy, hot and humid,” she said. “It feels like 102.”

Friends Eddy Santos and Chris Agustin of Plainville visited Ocean Beach for the first time on Monday and said it was nice but too hot to walk on the sand.

“The sand was burning so we gave up playing volleyball,” Santos said.

In Norwich, Jessica Hernandez and her two children, Mark, 6, and David, 8, could either swelter in their two-bedroom apartment or go to the Spaulding Pond public beach at Mohegan Park.

“It’s too hot to keep the kids in a hot apartment,” said Hernandez. “We can take a dip at the beach and get shade under the trees.”

About two dozen families were at the beach. An outdoor thermometer at the Chelsea Groton Bank on West Main Street said it was 95 degrees.

Air-conditioning helps

Joseph Sastre, Groton’s director of emergency management, said the town posted bulletins on its Facebook page and website suggesting people visit buildings such as the Groton Public Library, Groton Senior Center, stores and malls to get cool.

But Sastre said temperatures along the shoreline should be cooler than in inland towns.

“Barring any large-scale power outage or anything, I think we’re going to be OK locally,” Sastre said.

Jerry Lokken, manager of recreation services for Groton, said his department made plans at the beginning of summer to deal with hot days, and each of the three day camp sites — S.B. Butler Elementary School, Claude Chester Elementary School and William Seely School — has classrooms that are air-conditioned. He said the camps are modifying activities for the 250 children enrolled so they’re less strenuous.

The Connecticut Tigers minor league baseball team hosted children from recreation camps throughout the region at Dodd Memorial Stadium Monday. Team General Manager C.J. Knudsen said there were no heat-related incidents, despite the on-field temperature reading of 101 degrees for much of the 12-inning, 3½-hour game.

Day staff writers Deborah Straszheim and Claire Bessette also contributed to this story.

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