Fresno’s bone-dry heat cause for an ounce (or 16) of prevention

Dominick Perez, 4, pulls himself up to get cool in the misters while playing in the playground at Lighthouse for Children Child Development Center, Wednesday, June 1, 2016 in downtown Fresno, Calif.
Dominick Perez, 4, pulls himself up to get cool in the misters while playing in the playground at Lighthouse for Children Child Development Center, Wednesday, June 1, 2016 in downtown Fresno, Calif. ezamora@fresnobee.com

The forecast for Fresno the next three days is simple: hot.

The National Weather Service predicts high temperatures in Fresno for Thursday through Saturday of 104 to 105 degrees each day.

Wednesday’s high temperature in Fresno reached 105, matching the record set in 1910. Saturday’s predicted high of 105 would also equal a record, one set in 1996.

That’s cause for concern for athletes coming into town for the California state high school track and field championships, construction workers and others who must be outside.

Fresno cooling centers are expected to open Friday and Saturday because the National Weather Service predicts highs of 105 degrees for those days. That’s the threshold for the city to staff the centers, city spokesman Mark Standriff said.

It’s not universal: The city of Madera, for instance, opens its cooling centers if it goes over 102 or is over 100 for consecutive days, said city spokesman Joseph Carello. Madera city centers will be open Thursday and Friday. Free transportation to the centers is available through Madera Dial-A-Ride from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

While Fresno’s heat wave doesn’t quite yet meet the 105-degree minimum for cooling center relief, the high heat and low humidity present this week are still a concern, especially for athletes and construction workers planning to play and work outside.

Fresno Unified School District, for instance, discourages outdoor activities when it’s hot like this week, district spokesman Jed Chernabaeff said. But if the heat index hits 105, then the call is for a district-wide suspension of all outdoor activities. The index charts the apparent temperature outside – or how hot the combination of heat and humidity makes the temperature feel.

Meteorologist Brian Ochs with the National Weather Service in Hanford said humidity percentages will remain low this week, dipping below 10 percent on Saturday. Because humidity is relative to temperature, the 105 benchmark for schools and cooling centers relies primarily on the air temperature.

Individual schools can choose to take steps at lower temperatures, Chernabaeff said. He cited the decision of Sequoia Middle School officials in central Fresno to use the gym and wrestling rooms for physical education Wednesday rather than sending the students outside for recess.

Chernabaeff said the district encourages adult supervisors to keep their eyes on students to make sure they’re hydrated and in the shade if they’re outdoors.

All high school athletics competition has ended for the season except for the state track meet, scheduled for Friday and Saturday at Veterans Memorial Stadium at Buchanan High School in Clovis. State officials on Wednesday pushed start times for each day later into the evening in an attempt to beat the heat.

And many sports teams are still practicing or gearing up for summer competition.

Between the temperatures of 100 and 104, Fresno Unified recommends athletic coaches provide ample water, mandatory 10-minute water breaks every 30 minutes and close attention to the athletes themselves. Schools should also monitor their gyms for adequate air conditioning.

Once the temperature reaches or exceeds 105, schools prohibit long-distance running and strenuous conditioning, and athletic practices must be scheduled before 11 a.m. or after 7 p.m.

Many construction supervisors mandate similar rules for providing cooling-off breaks, shade, air conditioning and water anytime temperatures reach the high 90s.

Jeff Ahles, 55, of the Lake Tahoe area, is the supervisor for Michel’s Pipe Service. At midmorning Wednesday, he was overseeing the workers feeding a camera into a pipe on E Street in downtown Fresno as part of a relining project.

“I’m the one making sure they don’t overheat,” Ahles said. “Sometimes, the workers don’t know it’s happening because they’re so busy and concentrated on work.”

Ahles implements cooldown breaks in the air-conditioned control room of his truck and ensures workers have access to cold water and Gatorade. Workers wear sweatbands and have access to canopies and tents for shade.

Workers get heat stress when they don’t hydrate, Ahles said. Symptoms of the illness include nausea, headaches, dizziness, fatigue, loss of appetite, impaired judgment, loss of coordination and hyperventilation.

“It just drains you. You feel rotten,” Ahles said.

JoAnna Kroeker: 559-441-6247, @jobethkroeker

Fresno cooling centers

When they’re open: Fresno cooling centers open from noon to 8 p.m. when the National Weather Service in Hanford forecasts a 105-degree day.

Where they’re at: Cooling stations are at the Ted C. Wills Community Center, Frank H. Ball Neighborhood Center, Mosqueda Community Center, Pinedale Community Center and Romain Neighborhood Park.

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