In response to several days of 100-plus degree heat, the city of Patterson has opened a cooling zone at the senior center, 700 F St.
Dozens of people used the modest building to escape intense temperatures that killed a 91-year-old Stanislaus County woman Thursday.
“When it doesn’t drop below 85 degrees, it’s hard to cool off,” said Assistant City Manager Bryan Whitemyer.
Volunteers with the American Red Cross’ Patterson Branch helped staff the center, along with a city employee.
Local churches, businesses and community groups kept folks from going hungry.
“Do you have food today?” a man asked as he navigated the center in his wheelchair.
Debbie Calcote, a Red Cross volunteer, estimated there’s enough food to feed people for several days.
The Red Cross will keep a cooling zone open until high temperatures drop below 100, Calcote said, as heat waves can be dangerous for the elderly, the poor and others who sometimes can’t afford to keep an air conditioner running.
Margaret Mierzejewski, 91, died Thursday in a mobile home with a broken air conditioner, according to the Stanislaus County CEO’s office. Mierzejewski, who lives just outside Ceres and Modesto, was found in the late afternoon by her husband.
A similar heat wave in 2006 killed several people in the county, though Patterson avoided fatalities. Dr. John Walker, public health officer of Stanislaus County, suspects that’s because people looked out for one another.
“Many of the areas along Highway 33 were spared from the last heat event because of the good-neighbor policy,” he said.
Calcote and other locals this week have driven through neighborhoods telling people that the senior center is a perfect place to beat the heat. Some of the people who have sought shelter were obviously in need.
“These two guys that came in were all sweaty and red,” said city employee E.J. Rodriguez.
Calcote said she’d gone through the oleander bushes along Highway 33 and found a transient family with a young girl who went with her to the shelter.
Red Cross volunteers have also organized vans to stop at area labor camps and some nearby county homes to give people rides back to the Patterson cooling zone.
Cool spots have been opened throughout the county.
The county CEO’s office said people need to take extra care during the heat wave, by staying indoors when possible, wearing light clothing and drinking plenty of water.