Vermont prepares for blistering heat

A group of recent high school graduates from New Jersey watch friends T.J. Illuzzi, right, and Matt Graybush jump into the cool waters of the Mad River in Warren on Friday. Vermont's swimming holes should see plenty of activity over the coming days as a heat wave moves into the region. (Jeb Wallace-Brodeur / Staff Photo)

"Hazardous weather conditions: Heat advisory in effect" means no frying eggs on the sidewalk, lest you fry yourself in the process. The National Weather service has a heat advisory in effect with highs near 96 degrees in Montpelier from noon Saturday until 10 p.m. Monday. For a few days after that, Tuesday into Thursday, highs are projected in the low 90s. Sunday's heat  will come with a vengeance: The NWS predicts humidity will make the air feel 10 degrees hotter. Erica Bornemann, director of  Vermont Emergency Management, said the heat indexes will be up over 100 degrees for most of the state on Sunday and Monday, so they're telling everyone to stay calm, stay cool and draw the shades. "Heat has a cumulative effect on the body," she said."So limiting physical activity will be of the utmost importance at this time." Bornemann advised Vermonters to plan on indoor activities with the family this weekend, and choose locations with guaranteed air conditioning, especially if your family includes pregnant women, children or the elderly, because Vermont Emergency Management is already calling around to the nine regional Red Cross centers to make sure they can be used as cooling shelters for those caught in the heat. Montpelier has been preparing for the high temperatures, and is implementing an otherworldly force to help hydrate its citizens during its Independence Day celebration on Tuesday: "water monsters." "We're worried about exertion and exposure, too much heat and not enough fluids," said Capt. Neil Martell, of the Montpelier Police Department. "So the citywide celebration is something we monitor: Fire and EMS will have extra staff members and water monsters: water dispensers with free water available for people throughout the city. We thought that was important to do for events on the State House lawn and the vendors, but we haven't had to do that in previous years." Utilities such as Vermont Electric Co-op are asking customers to conserve energy by shutting off the lights, ordering takeout instead of cooking and limiting the AC  this weekend — especially during peak hours between 3 and 8 p.m. — for their wallets' sakes. “When VEC can reduce the cost to buy and transmit electricity when demand is high across the region, it helps control rates over the long term,”  Jake Brown, energy services planner for the utility, said in a news release Friday. “As a co-op, when one member saves, we all save.” But air conditioning may be the saving grace for many Vermonters this weekend, and Green Mountain Power is gearing up to provide as much energy as needed, thanks to its Powerwall and Stafford Hill Solar Farm battery systems, which provide back-up energy on sweltering weekends. GMP spokeswoman Kristin Kelly said the Powerwall system is a network of Tesla batteries that are purchased individually by customers and provide them with a clean-energy source that remain on standby. When GMP needs to provide more power across its network it can call on the individual Powerwall sources, as well its solar farm batteries. "Stafford Hill is a big location for us, it's where all that solar power gets stored," Kelly said. "We estimate that when we pull from all of that, it would be the equivalent of taking 5,000 homes off the grid. We can ride out the peak that way. Conservation is always a good practice, but we want people to be safe and comfortable." Kelly said GMP is expecting a 20-30 percent increase in power usage this weekend. And it's a good thing, too: according to the Center for Disease Control, heat illnesses can present symptoms ranging from headaches to blisters to muscle spasms, and if left untreated, can lead to heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps and sunburns. “It’s important to take steps to keep yourself, your family, your pets and your neighbors safe," Gov. Phil Scott said in statement Friday. "I ask all Vermonters to take extra caution with children and pets who cannot care for themselves, and to check on the elderly and those who may otherwise need special assistance to make sure they are OK.” At the Rutland County Humane Society, all the four-legged residents will relax comfortably in the air conditioning. The real concern will be those going along for a ride with their owners, according to Executive Director Kevin Rushing. "I'm concerned people will leave animals in cars," he said. "I've heard heat can get up to 150-200 degrees sometimes. It only takes a matter of minutes." In Montpelier, Martell said the number of calls about dogs in cars rises with the temperature, and "just a few minutes" can turn deadly very quickly. For calls like that, police use an infrared temperature device through the window of the vehicle to make sure the heat in the car isn't suffocating the pet before they take action. "We have the authority that allows us to enter the vehicle by whatever means necessary to save the life of the animal," Martell said, "but oftentimes, we find the temperature is not an excessive amount." If cooling off in the river this week, be aware of the 36 hydroelectric dams that GMP operates throughout the state, where quick currents, spillways and slippery areas can lead to serious injury. Community pools are expected to be packed over  the overheated, as the Essex Sand Hill Park pool was Friday. "We're expecting a full house over here from 1 p.m to 5 p.m at least," said manager Joe Jonillo. "We're expecting it to be packed all (next) week. It's going to be exciting ... and interesting."

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