How two of the country’s hottest cities are creating solutions to combat the heat

Steven Cavazos , Robert Samarron
6 Min Read

SAN ANTONIO/PHOENIX – While Texas is no stranger to the triple digits, the Alamo City saw a new high; Summer 2023 is officially the hottest on record.

Over 30 cooling centers opened up around San Antonio to beat the heat.

Residents can find relief at public libraries, senior centers and community centers. Several fan distributions have been held to help senior citizens cool down during hot summer days. It’s part of Project Cool.

Recently, a cool pavement pilot program was launched to see if a water-based asphalt treatment can help cool neighborhoods.

However, data provided by the South Texas Regional Advisory Council (STRAC)) show that heat-related illnesses have gone up. There have been 495 heat-related illnesses since March 18, 2023.

Michael Rodriguez is the division director for emergency preparedness and response with STRAC. He said their team saw several heat-related emergencies at the start of the year.

“We’ve now learned that we cannot wait; our response needs to be immediate, whether they need it or not,” Rodriguez said. “It can be very devastating, and it quickly changes. It can go from a normal body temperature to 106 to 107 core body temperature, which can be very dangerous for you.”

In those emergencies, ice is transported to the scene to help cool down the body’s temperature. It’s called ice immersion. Ice chests remain full of ice bags and are ready to deploy at a moment’s notice.

“We’ve actually had the helicopters land at our office where we can easily load several ice chests full of ice, and they will fly that wherever they need to,” Rodriguez said.

Medical resources are always on standby at STRAC’s hangar on San Antonio’s West Side. Four mobile medical units can also be deployed across the state in an emergency.

“We never ever sit back and go, ‘Okay, we’re done,’” Rodriguez said. “Tomorrow is another day, and we have to be prepared.”

STRAC constantly reviews its data and modifies its procedures to improve response time.

The city of San Antonio’s Heat Guide outlines what residents can do to stay cool and safe.

In places like Phoenix, Arizona, the weather has been grueling and sometimes even deadly.

The city has taken an approach to help residents get through their hot seasons.

The Office of Heat Response and Mitigation aims to combat urban heat through cross-collaborations and future planning. Last month, a KSAT team flew to Phoenix to meet with team members and residents.

In July, the city saw the most 110-degree days on record. Since April, 133 heat-associated deaths have been reported, and 341 remain under investigation, according to data from Maricopa County.

Local hiking trails even closed during excessive heat days, urging hikers to use caution.

Others are doing anything they can to cool down.

At the corner of 9th Avenue and Jackson Avenue, a community of tents surrounds the Human Services Campus; it’s also an area where heat-related illnesses have been reported.

Michelle Litwin leads a team of volunteers with the “We’re Cool Program.” Bottles of water, hats and personal misters are just some of the items that are distributed to people who live in this vulnerable community.

“This is where some of our largest population of those experiencing homelessness are, and we want to make sure we bring this service to them,” Litwin said.

The program is just a facet of the Office of Heat Response and Mitigation. Litwin leads the response side for the office.

“The way I like to talk about our office is twofold,” Litwin said. “The heat response side, which I lead up, is our short-term strategy … boots on the ground initiatives, making sure people are safe on a day-to-day (basis).”

Some of those initiatives include water distribution, cooling buses and cooling centers. Litwin said the office also observes long-term strategies.

“(Things like) built-in environments, planting trees, shade structures (and) the cool pavement initiatives (are) just trying to be as collaborative and inclusive as possible,” Litwin said.

Over at Cesar Chavez Park, around 200 trees were planted last year, hoping they will grow and provide shade. The park is considered Phoenix’s first cool corridor.

Corey Miles has lived on the streets of Phoenix for several years. He said he is grateful for the resources and planning but still has to bear the brunt of the sun most days.

“It gets worse every year,” he said. “Last year was bad. This year is even worse.”

Although San Antonio does not have an office dedicated to heat response and planning, multiple agencies work together.

The San Antonio Office of Emergency Management, Metro-Health and CPS Energy are just some groups that collaborate to combat the heat and plan against future heat waves.

You can also stay updated on heat and the local forecast with the KSAT weather team.

Copyright 2023 by KSAT – All rights reserved.

Steven Cavazos , Robert Samarron

2023-09-01 23:03:33 , "things to do in phoenix when:7d" – Vivrr Local

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