Are Black Outs On The Way? Heat Waves and High Energy Costs Are Hitting Some Communities Hard

Heat waves have hit large parts of the U.S. Many people are also facing high energy costs: “For low-income families, this is catastrophic.”

Heat Waves and High Energy Costs Are Hitting Some Communities Hard
Children play at a water park as the temperature reaches 115 degrees June 12 in Imperial, Calif. Sandy Huffaker

June 19, 2022, 3:30 AM CDT

By Denise ChowEvan Bush and Alicia Victoria Lozano

Heat Waves and High Energy Costs Are Hitting Some Communities Hard

From Kansas to Michigan, some 10 million Americans were facing sweltering conditions Monday as high heat and humidity smothered the middle of the country.

Minneapolis was under an extreme heat wave warning with forecasters warning the mercury could hit a record 100 degrees this afternoon.

And that was just a warm-up for the potentially record-breaking temperatures forecast across the rest of the region for Tuesday and Wednesday, the National Weather Service said.

“Dangerous heat waves and potential record high temperatures are expected this week from the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes to the Southern U.S.,” the agency warned.

Kansas City could be baking in 97 degree heat come Tuesday, forecasters warned. The mercury could hit a high of 94 degrees in Memphis and St. Louis. And the temperature could reach a sizzling 100 degrees in Chicago — again.

Last week, 100 degree temps were reported on back-to-back days at Midway Airport, located on the south side of Chicago, for the first time since 1934, the local NBC affiliate reported.

Torrid temperatures and high humidity has added an extra burden to the ongoing challenges many people — especially lower income Americans — already face from inflation and high energy costs.

In Macon, Georgia, where temperatures were expected to reach triple digits this week, Sgt. Melissa White, a corps administrator for the Salvation Army, said her facility has been packed with people looking for relief from the heat but who don’t dare run their own air conditioners.

“With these gas prices, people can’t afford to run air conditioners even if they have them,” White said. “So it’s forcing a lot of folks who have never reached out for help to come into these cooling stations.”

Climate change, scientist say, is fueling more frequent and more intense heat waves in the U.S. and around the world. As temperatures climb, access to cooling resources can be a matter of life and death. 

A man lies on the grass as the temperature reaches 115 degrees June 12 in Calexico, Calif.

The Salvation Army of Macon is expanding its operations during the heat wave to serve as a cooling center for the public. The organization also runs a shelter where people can stay overnight, and White said she and her colleagues are already struggling to keep up with demand, especially with forecasts projecting high heat and humidity to linger for weeks.

“We have such a large influx that we’re looking at opening a second spot in our worship center,” she said. “Technically, we have a 122-bed system, but we also have cots and we just keep taking people in until we can’t get them in anymore.”

Cities across the country are taking similar steps to protect residents from heat-related illness and death. Local governments in Phoenix, Denver and Detroit announced plans last week to open cooling centersdistribute water and erect new structures to provide shade.

Heat waves are sometimes known as a “silent killer” because symptoms of heat-related illness can often go unnoticed until it’s too late. The body’s organs can become overtaxed and shut down if they lose the ability to regulate temperature.

Also, heat waves can also worsen symptoms from underlying conditions such as cardiac disease, diabetes or kidney problems.

Young children, the elderly, people experiencing homelessness, and individuals with pre-existing medical conditions, are among those at highest risk of heat-related illness and death when temperatures soar.

Yvette Moyler, who lives just north of Columbus, Ohio, said last week it was so hot her air conditioner couldn’t keep up.

“In this weather, it’s hard to breathe,” said Moyler, 59, of Worthington, where the temperatures hit the upper 90s last Tuesday and the heat index soared above 110 degrees, the National Weather Service reported. 

Reduce your energy usage during these heat waves with Home Energy Savers.

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