By Christina Gallagher| Monday, July 15, 2013, 11:30 a.m.
Bad news: Temperatures reached 90 on Monday for the first time this year and combined with stifling humidity across Western Pennsylvania, driving seniors to air-conditioned cooling centers and sending medics on heat-related emergencies.
Worse news: The heat is expected to linger. John Darnley, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Moon, said humidity could make temperatures feel like 100. Daily highs aren't expected to drop back into the low 80s until Sunday, the weather service predicts.
“I sit in here and play cards and cool off,” said Dan Brown, 75, of Stanton Heights, one of about 70 seniors taking refuge inside the Homewood Healthy Active Living Center on Frankstown Avenue.
Pittsburgh's Citiparks parks and recreation department extended hours at four cooling centers Monday, including the one in Homewood and others in Greenfield, Sheraden and the South Side. They will be open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday. The city extends cooling-center hours when the National Weather Service predicts the heat index will reach at least 90 degrees. That has happened 13 times this year, attracting nearly 5,300 seniors combined, said Dick Skrinjar, Citiparks' director of community services.
Skrinjar said the city spent more than $20,000 to provide extra staffing and food during the extended hours at the centers this year.
Despite the high temperatures, authorities reported few problems related to the heat.
Pittsburgh EMS District Chief Raymond Everitt said the city responded to “probably less than a dozen” heat-related emergency calls, none life-threatening.
“It was nothing more dramatic or out of the ordinary,” Everitt said.
Allegheny County spokeswoman Amie Downs said county authorities didn't see a jump in the number of emergency calls.
PennDOT spokesman Steve Cowan said crews working outside took extra precautions. They were required to have ice water in their trucks and rotate flag workers regularly.
Dr. Raymond Pitetti, associated medical director of Children's Hospital's emergency department, urged people to drink a lot of water throughout the week — even when swimming.
“You're losing water from sweating and sitting out in the sun,” Pitetti said. “You still have fluid losses you need to make up. Even if you're swimming, you still need to hydrate.”
The temperatures of young children rise faster than those of adults, and kids become dehydrated more quickly than adults, he said.
He advised parents to keep infants under 6 months out of the sun.
The Western Pennsylvania Humane Society advises pet owners to keep their pets out of the sun when possible.
Dog owners should walk their pets in the morning and evening and have them walk on grass to avoid burning their paws.
Pets should never be left in cars when temperatures soar, the society said.
Christina Gallagher is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5637.
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