Stay safe and beat the heat

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Be careful at the beach this weekend. West Tisbury Emergency Management Director Russell Hartenstine warns to stay inside this weekend as a heatwave is expected to hit the Island. — MV Times file

A major heatwave is expected to hit the Vineyard and the rest of Massachusetts this weekend and public health officials and emergency personnel want Islanders to be safe and prepared for the potentially intense temperatures.

According to a release from the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, high temperatures throughout the state are forecast to be in the 90’s to lower 100’s, with the most oppressive temperatures being on Saturday.

Doctor Alamjit Virk of Martha’s Vineyard Hospital said heat exposure is dangerous when it approaches the extreme, so people should stay hydrated, stay out of the sun as much as possible, and monitor themselves and others for symptoms of heat stroke and exhaustion. 

He said the very young and very old will be most susceptible to these conditions. Symptoms to watch out for, according to Virk, are lightheadedness, feeling faint, nausea, headaches, and body cramps. 

For young children, any change in behavior such as decrease in activity or lethargy are possible indicators of heat-related illness.

Virk stressed the importance of checking in on neighbors, friends, and family, especially if they are elderly or have underlying medical conditions. “Be a good neighbor and keep an eye on people,” Virk said. “High heat can affect all the functions of your body, so be careful.”

West Tisbury Emergency Management Director Russell Hartenstine said resources are available in case someone’s power fails, or if someone has a medical condition that makes them vulnerable to heat. 

He said the libraries in each town will offer shelter during normal business hours in the event of a power outage where no air conditioning is available. 

If the issue worsens, Hartenstine said the Oak Bluffs School will be available as the central shelter. The American Red Cross and the Salvation Army will be standing by in case the Oak Bluffs School becomes occupied to provide food, water, and other forms of aid. 

The Medical Reserve Corps will have a team of doctors and nurses serving on a volunteer basis, in case one of the shelters encounters someone with a serious medical condition.

“Take shelter, don’t go outside too much, and drink lots of water. Basically follow common sense rules, especially older people and young children,” Hartenstine said.

Tisbury health agent Maura Valley said the Tisbury Library will be available for people to cool off on Saturday until 5 pm.

On Sunday July 21 the Tisbury Senior Center will open upon request during the hours of 10:00am to 5:00pm. Please contact the Tisbury Harbormaster for further information.

“Just stay inside, don’t overexert yourself, and stay hydrated,” Valley said.

Valley also suggested keeping a watchful eye on pets and making sure they are cool and have enough water.

Co-president of the Oak Bluffs library, Alison Cohen, said the library will be open from 10 am to 4 pm on Saturday, but will be closed on Sunday. “We invite anyone to come in during our business hours and enjoy the air conditioning,” Cohen said. “We also have a water fountain and bottle filling station available.”

So far, Cohen said there are no plans for the library to be open outside of normal operating times.