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As heat continues, Missoula residents try to keep cool

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Chris O'Leary, a motorcycle officer with the Missoula Police Department, stops for a lemonade Tuesday afternoon while Krista Winnings, one of five entrepreneurs at the stand, cools off with a bit of the profits. The National Weather Service is forecasting one more day of temperatures in the high 80s then at least five consecutive days of high 90s.

As the high temperatures continue, the need to beat the heat becomes more urgent.

Hardware stores are hard pressed to keep up with the demand for portable air conditioners, fans, and window air conditioners. Rachel Bokma, assistant manager at Ace Hardware in the Tremper's Shopping Center, said that the demand was “out of control.”

“Two summers ago was the last time demand has been this crazy,” Bokma said, “but this summer has been worse.”

Cory Beierle, manager at the Home Depot on Reserve, sees a run on air conditioner units every time they get back in stock. “In two or three hours, they’re gone,” he said Tuesday.

Air conditioners are just one response to the heat. Amy Cilimburg, director of Climate Smart Missoula, said that swamp coolers, fans that use cold water and evaporation to cool an area, are making a comeback. 

“Swamp coolers might not be as effective, but they work,” said Cilimburg, and even better, they’re generally cheaper than air conditioners.

For people who do not have homes outfitted with cooling devices or are in areas that have little to no shade, Cilimburg suggests visiting cool places like the library, malls, or other public, air-conditioned spaces.

However, she recognizes that this kind of freedom is not available for all.

“For elderly folks and people who can’t move around, it’s much more difficult to deal with the heat,” Cilimburg said. “Check on elderly neighbors, homebound, other people,” she advises, because for “a lot of us, we find it unpleasant; for others it’s life or death.”

Vulnerable populations such as the elderly and homeless are more at risk during heat waves. Amy Allison Thompson, the executive director at the Poverello Center, said that they are advising people to stay in the shade, drink plenty of water, and “seek cool places,” like down by the river.

The Homeless Outreach Team is providing bottled water and sunscreen to people on the street, and donations of both items are encouraged in this heat. 

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