In response to the extremely high, potentially life-threatening temperatures expected this weekend, local officials have collaborated to have “cooling centers” and other disaster relief services at the ready.
Working on the effort are Inyo County Sheriff’s Department, Health and Human Services and the office of County Administrator Kevin Carunchio, the county disaster services coordinator.
Sheriff Lutze, the county’s Emergency Services coordinator, said that “potential record-setters” can lead to power outages – outages that mean no air conditioning, no fans, no refrigeration and no swamp coolers, possibly for prolonged periods of time.
Aside from advising residents to drink plenty of water, stay in the shade and take other preventative actions, the county is prepared to immediately open cooling centers in Lone Pine, Bishop, Independence and Big Pine if need be, said HHS Director Jean Turner, whose office manages the cooling centers. These pre-designated centers, which are outfitted with generators if needed, would provide air conditioning and hydration stations.
Cooling centers are already set up in the Tocopa/Shoshone area, where many seniors reside and 120-125 degree highs are expected. The center, located at the Hurlbut Rook Community Center on Tecopa Hot Springs Road, will be from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. through Monday, July 1, Lutze said.
In Death Valley, with possible highs of 130-140 degrees, the National Park Services and Xanterra Parks & Resorts, owners of the Furnace Creek Inn and Ranch, are also ready to set up cooling centers if needed, the sheriff said.
According to the National Weather Service website, Big Pine will see highs of 101-102 degrees; Bishop, 103-105; Independence, 106-109; and Lone Pine, 101-104.
Should 24-hour service become necessary, the county is also prepared to open shelter care centers which provide meals, overnight sleeping cots and a nurse to provide basic medical care, Turner explained.
Cooling center locations and pertinent phone numbers are broadcast on the radio, Lutze said, but if power is out, the Sheriff’s Department code-red notification system would activate. All registered phone numbers in the threatened area would automatically receive calls giving vital information.
According to a June 28 California Emergency Management Agency news release, some things people can do to reduce the risk of heat-related death, illness and injury include:
• Monitor local media for weather forecasts and information from local officials;
• Learn the signs of heat-related illness;
• Stay out of the sun; wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing;
• Drink plenty of liquids and reduce physical activity; take shaded breaks and stay hydrated if working outside;
• Use air conditioning and fans or get to a location that is air conditioned such as a store or designated cooling center; and
• Use cool compresses, misting and baths to lower body temperature.
California Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ron Chapman said, “Prolonged exposure to excessive temperatures can be extremely dangerous, if not deadly, particularly for infants, small children seniors and those with health problems … Heat waves in California are projected to occur earlier in the season (than last year), be more intense and last longer.”
In the meantime, cooling centers are ready to go and Turner said she was informed, as of early June 28, that power outages are not expected.
For more on why it’s so hot, see Mountain Report on A-16. For information about or to report the need for a cooling station, call the county 24-hour dispatch center at (760) 878-0383.