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COPING WITH SUN'S BLAST
By T.L. Petersen
Observer Staff Writer
Today is expected to be Day Four of the Great Heat Wave of 2002.
Once again, thermometers are expected to climb into the three-digit realm, with a cooling trend coming Sunday.
Just how hot is it? You probably don't really want to know.
Friday set a new La Grande record for July 12 Â— 108 degrees Â— and almost edged out the all-time heat record, 109 degrees, set on Aug. 4, 1961.
"They discovered us today," a librarian at the La Grande Public Library said Friday afternoon.
The air-conditioned corners of the library were filling with people for the first time during the heat spell.
"There's a lot of people sitting here reading newspapers," came word from the library.
That's fine, since those same people are finding a way to stay comfortable and healthy, avoiding medical emergencies.
Michael Wiens, fire prevention officer at the La Grande Fire Department, said Friday afternoon that there had not been an increase in calls for ambulance services because of the heat, and no outbreak of fires.
"We haven't had phone calls on the subject," Wiens said. "I think people have been kind of sensible about this."
"Sensible" seems to be staying home and quiet for many people, at least so far.
At the Think Link Discovery Museum for Children on Washington Avenue, the open sign was out but few children were visiting the activity center.
"It's too hot to even go outside," an employee said Friday. "It's been really quiet."
Quiet wasn't really the description to use at the Elgin Community Swimming Pool.
Attendance at the pool during the past few days of heat has been "about normal," said pool employee Kelly Witherspoon.
But among the regulars, Witherspoon noted that "there's a few here who have never been here before enjoying the pool."
While it's not as wet as a swimming pool, the air conditioners at the Senior Center in La Grande are "running overtime," admitted Frank Thomas, director
Senior citizens at the center haven't been voicing many complaints, or no more than any one else, Thomas said, but staffers are "keeping a close eye on our regulars" to be sure no one is suffering from the heat.
Thomas has noted that people are perhaps coming to the Senior Center a little earlier and staying a bit longer.
"I think people are getting by OK," he added. Precautions are being taken by the Senior Center's nutritionist, asking Meals-on-Wheels drivers to be sure to check on homebound area residents, and encouraging everyone to be sure to drink lots of water and take care of themselves in the heat.
While many people are talking and thinking and dealing with the heat, almost all also have a final comment:
"At least we don't have to deal with high humidity, too."
108 ONE FOR RECORD BOOK
They might be talking about the summer of 2002 for some time to come and the heat wave that occurred this week
Friday's high in La Grande spiked to 108 degrees, the highest temperature in July in 42 years.
The last time the city hit 108 was on July 18, 1960, according to National Weather Service records kept for La Grande since the 1940s.
"Can you top that?:" people might ask.
Actually, La Grande's highest temperature recorded over the past half century was a 109, which occurred on Aug. 4, 1961.
Friday's 108 surpassed the highest temperature for July 12. The previous high for the date was 102, recorded in 1953.
Reach T.L. Petersen at tpetersen