Athol, Greenfield open cooling centers in response to heat wave

The Athol Public Library will be open as a cooling center in response to the ongoing heat wave.

The Athol Public Library will be open as a cooling center in response to the ongoing heat wave. FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Report

Published: 06-17-2024 3:34 PM

Modified: 06-18-2024 11:21 AM

ATHOL — In response to the nationwide heatwave which began on Sunday, Athol has opened numerous cooling centers in town.

According to the National Weather Service (NWS), the heatwave began on Sunday in the central U.S. and began spreading across the Midwest and Northeast by Tuesday and lasting most of the week.

Max heat indices of 105 degrees (Fahrenheit) are expected and overnights are only expected to drop into the 70s, according to the NWS. A moderate risk of excessive heat is expected to last in the northeast through June 21, with a slight risk for the entire eastern U.S. lasting through June 26.

The town has identified several locations where those who need a break from the heat can find temporary relief during the hottest times of the day. Sites include:

■The Athol Senior Center (82 Freedom St.); Monday-Thursday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

■North Quabbin Community Coalition (251 Exchange St.)

■Athol Public Library (568 Main St.); Monday, Wednesday and Thursday 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m., Tuesday, 9:30 a.m.-8 p.m. and Friday (if needed), 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m.

■Athol Area YMCA (545 Main St.)

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■North Quabbin Chamber of Commerce (80 Freedom St.)

■Valuing Our Children (217 Walnut St.).

■North Quabbin Recovery Center (416 Main St.)

In addition to providing a place to cool off, some locations will also provide water. For those locations where the hours aren’t listed, contact for specific hours. The library and senior center will be closed due to the Juneteenth holiday on Wednesday, but the police department conference room will be open from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. as a cooling center. 

The City of Greenfield has also opened several cooling centers from Tuesday, June 18, until the end of the day on Friday, June 21. The list includes:

■John Zon Community Center (35 Pleasant St.): Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

■Greenfield Housing Authority Community Room (1 Elm Terrace): Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. (availability for Wednesday, June 19 will be confirmed on Tuesday, June 18).

■Oak Courts Common Room (Oak Courts, off of Elm Street): Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m.

■Greenfield Public Library (412 Main St.): Monday-Tuesday, 9:30 a.m.–5 p.m., Thursday-Friday, 9:30 a.m.–5 p.m. (On Wednesday, June 19, the library will be open as a cooling center from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Community meeting room, conference room, and periodicals lounge will be open as a cooling center. The main library will be closed to the public.

■Greenfield City Hall (14 Court Square): Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m.

Individuals can find cooling centers in other communities by calling 211.

Individuals can find cooling centers in other communities by calling 211.

Residents can cool off at the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s (DCR) 81 waterfrontsand spray decks. Certain DCR spray decks are open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and lifeguards will be on duty seven days a week at 32 designated swimming areas across the state from approximately 10:15 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. For a list or DCR’s freshwater inland beaches visit

In addition, due to elevated levels of ozone expected in thearea, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection has issued an air quality alert effective 11 a.m. through 11 p.m. on June 18, according to an announcement made on Monday.

Ozone levels are expected to impact air quality in eastern Hampden and Hampshire counties, southern Worcester County, and central Middlesex County, and Essex County. Air quality is expected to be unhealthy for sensitive groups. Sensitive groups include people with heart or lung disease, such as asthma, older adults, children, teenagers, and people who are active outdoors. People with either lung disease or heart disease are at greater risk from exposure to air pollution.

Staying safe during a heat wave

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, those most susceptible to heat-related problems include infants and children up to 4 years of age, as well as people 65 years of age and older, who are overweight, and those who are ill or on certain medications. Others vulnerable to heat-related issues include athletes and outdoor workers, workers who wear protective clothing such as firefighters, and those who work in hot indoor environments with poor ventilation, such as kitchen or laundry workers.

In addition to limiting outdoor activity to the coolest hours of the day and resting in shady areas, information provided by the Athol Health Department also suggests wearing sunscreen. The CDC says sunburn can affect the body’s ability to cool down and also hasten dehydration. If outdoor activities can’t be avoided during hot weather one should wear sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat and, 30 minutes before going out, apply a sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher. The CDC recommends looking for the words “broad spectrum” or “UVA/UVB protection” on the label.

Infants, children and/or pets should never be left in parked cars even with windows slightly open. When exiting a vehicle, operators should make sure everyone is out of the vehicle and not overlook any youngsters who may have fallen asleep in the car.

The NWS says the temperature in a vehicle will reach 100 degrees in 25 minutes when the outdoor temperature is only 73 degrees. At 84 degrees, the interior of a vehicle can reach about 112 degrees in just 20 minutes.

Other tips: Avoid hot and heavy meals; they add heat to your body. Drink plenty of fluids; don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. If taking water pills, ask a physician how much you should drink when the weather is hot. Avoid alcoholic drinks or drinks that are high in sugar; they can dehydrate you. Make sure to provide plenty of water for pets and leave pets and water in a shady area.

There are different symptoms for exhaustion and heat stroke. Symptoms for heat exhaustion are weakness and severe fatigue, feeling dizzy or light-headed, nausea and/or vomiting, fainting (with recovery), and unusually heavy sweating.

Symptoms for heat stroke include loss of consciousness, disorientation, confusion/not making sense, slurred or garbled speech, hallucinations, and seizures.

In the case of heat exhaustion, get to a cool place as soon as possible, remove unnecessary clothing, cool off with a wet towel/fan/ice packs, and elevate your legs if you are feeling faint or have fainted. If symptoms are not improved after a half-hour, get medical attention.

If experiencing the symptoms of heat stroke, call 911. Next, move the person to a cool, dry place, remove unnecessary clothing, douse them with cool water or hose them down, or place them in ice or a cold-water bath if possible.

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