Libraries and community centers become havens as heat wave continues

A second day of humidity and high temperatures in the 90s was enough to send Dan Gotter to the Central Library in downtown Minneapolis on Tuesday morning, where he sat in a chair and relaxed for a few hours in air-conditioned comfort.

Gotter is homeless and the Nicollet Mall library has provided a place to escape the heat that gripped much of Minnesota and the central United States this week while, across the he Atlantic, Europe is suffocating under record temperatures.

“I’m lucky to have this,” Gotter said, gazing out the row of windows facing 3rd Street, sipping an energy drink and listening to his radio. “The heat is harsh. They don’t bother me here.”

For others seeking relief, malls, movie theaters and entertainment centers have laid down the welcome mat. Hennepin and Ramsey counties have opened buildings and recreation centers to provide free, air-conditioned places to relax. The Salvation Army opened its eight centers across the subway as cooling sites, including the Eastside Worship and Service Center on Payne Avenue in St. Paul, where fans were running, water jugs were available and a food giveaway was underway on Tuesday.

“When it’s hot, we’re there,” center captain Scott Spicer said. “Sometimes we’re a home away from home.”

But for some, staying indoors was not an option.

Zyias Ulis, who serves as an ambassador for the Downtown Minneapolis Improvement District, had to be on the streets Tuesday sweeping up trash and helping people who needed directions. He managed to hide inside the IDS center and restaurants for 10-minute breaks throughout the day to try to stay cool, and he emptied water over his head several times to avoid overheating.

“It could be worse,” Ulis said while picking up trash near the library at the Nicollet Mall, noting he’s from Arkansas, a place used to prolonged heat and humidity. “I just try to keep a smile on my face.”

Joe Bowers, who works for Dan’s Towing and Recovery, said the key to staying cool was drinking plenty of water and staying in his air-conditioned truck as much as possible. He admitted the heat wave made work sweaty as he towed cars and repaired punctures.

“Winter is fun, but I prefer to work in the summer,” he said between calls while parked on 7th Street and S. 11th Avenue in downtown Minneapolis.

A few clouds dropped showers in parts of the state on Tuesday morning, prompting the National Weather Service to drop a heat advisory that was supposed to be in effect until 6 p.m. above normal,” the Meteorological Service warned.

Across the pond, the UK broke the record for its highest temperature as the mercury hit 104.5 degrees in Coningsby, eastern England on Tuesday. That surpassed the country’s previous high mark of 101.7, set in 2019. The intense heat led to the country’s first extreme heat warning on Monday. Hundreds of people have died from the heat in Spain and Portugal, and fires have broken out in France.

In the United States, triple-digit high temperatures were forecast Tuesday for much of the central and southern plains, including 112 degrees in Dallas. Many records are expected to fall, the weather service said.

In Minneapolis, James Freid, the owner of Big Bell Ice Cream who jokingly calls himself his “catering manager”, said he would like the temperature to drop by about 15 degrees.

“It’s our sweet spot,” he said.

At 75-80 degrees, people have their windows open and can hear ice cream trucks rolling through neighborhoods. When the heat is intense, “people don’t go out”.

Freid won’t get his wish anytime soon. The warm weather streak will continue through the weekend with highs closer to 90 degrees rather than the mid-90s originally forecast, but temperatures could cool into the upper 80s by Sunday and Monday, said the weather service.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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