Punishing heat steamrolls Minn.

  • Article by: BILL MCAULIFFE and ROSE FRENCH , Star Tribune staff writers
  • Updated: July 18, 2011 - 11:53 PM

The temps took a toll at Target Field, and a "cooling center" opened in Rochester, but by Thursday it'll be mostly over.

Highway pavement and baseball fans buckled Monday on the third day of a heat wave likely to wear out its welcome long before the weather breaks Thursday.

The temperature climbed to 98 degrees in the Twin Cities, making it the state's hot spot, with thermometers expected to hit near or even above 100 Wednesday.

The stifling heat -- it felt like 115 degrees Monday -- cancelled and shortened outdoor events, sent about a dozen people to hospitals or emergency rooms and sparked a minor outbreak of unauthorized fire-hydrant openings in Minneapolis.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation scrambled to deal with four pavement pops around the metro area during the afternoon rush hour, including two that disrupted traffic in both directions of Interstate 94 just north of downtown Minneapolis, just two weeks after another rush hour buckle in the same area. At the noon Minnesota Twins game at Target Field, at least a half dozen fans were taken to Hennepin County Medical Center with heat-related problems, while others were treated by extra emergency workers on duty at the stadium, said Kurt Bramer, operations supervisor for Hennepin Emergency Medical Services. "Most ball games we might see one or two -- trips and falls, or unrelated medical issues," Bramer said. "It was very much the heat that was driving this."

Even Twins players, who faced a second game Monday evening, were given IVs after the first game to compensate for lost fluids. Vendors also suffered.

"Yeah, actually the beers are free today, but the ice is $7.25," quipped Tony Dennis, 48, a stadium vendor who walks an estimated 7 miles each game, up and down the stands selling soda, beer and water. When the tub he carries is fully loaded with ice and drinks, it can weigh 60 pounds.

Dennis and other vendors are drinking more water than usual to stay hydrated and were encouraged to take added breaks. "When you have the sun beating down on you, with the humidity and the high dew points ... you have to know your limits," said Dennis. Some fans fled their seats Monday, taking shelter from the heat in the concourse area and other spots out of the sun. Twins public affairs director Kevin Smith said the stadium set up water stations at every gate and other locations so people could refill water bottles.

The Minnesota Middle School Schoolgirls Lacrosse Association was among many leagues to cancel or postpone games Monday.

No games were scheduled Monday at the Schwan's USA Cup international youth soccer tournament in Blaine, but Tuesday's games will be shortened.

A place to cool off

In Rochester, the Red Cross opened an emergency "cooling center" in its building, where people could rest in air conditioning and get cool drinks. The center will be open again Tuesday and Wednesday. In the Twin Cities, emergency agencies began working to identify where solo elderly people might be living in particularly hot buildings. The city of Minneapolis decided it would not shut off water service to residences where people hadn't paid their bills.

At midafternoon, Minneapolis firefighters answered a false alarm at an apartment building on E. Franklin Avenue, one of many that acting chief Mike Fust said he expects in the next few days. Smoke detectors react to water vapor in the air as if it were smoke particles, Fust said, so they read humidity as a possible fire.

Meanwhile, several days of high heat and humidity -- with no relief at night -- have begun to take their toll on the elderly and people with breathing problems, Fust added.

"We're just not used to having dew points in the 70s," he said. "The volume of calls is up."

But heat-related hospital visits were surprisingly rare at many local hospitals. Regions Hospital in St. Paul had seen 15 patients for heat-related illnesses or difficulties since Saturday, a spokeswoman said. At Hennepin County Medical Center, three patients were treated for heat-related illness and one woman was treated for heat stress after chasing her runaway dog for an hour. But HCMC staff was bracing for more as the week progresses.

Fourteen Minnesota communities set or matched record high overnight low temperatures Sunday into Monday. The highest low was 79 at Minneapolis, which tied a 69-year-old mark. Tuesday night's low might not drop below 80.

Wednesday's predicted high is not expected to even be the high mark this year, following a 103-degree reading on June 7. But it is rare to see any triple-digit readings, let alone two.

A cold front is expected to pull the high temperature back to a near-normal 89 Thursday, just about the time any Minnesotans who have consistently been outside in recent days might be getting used to theheavy heat.

"For summer, about the best thing is to be out in it," said William O. Roberts, a University of Minnesota physician and professor who has studied physiological dynamics in heat as well as cold. Roberts said most people need three to five days to begin to acclimatize to intense heat and humidity, three weeks to get comfortable and three to five months to reach a maximum adaptation.

Staff writers Paul Levy and Joe Christensen contributed to this report. Bill McAuliffe • 612-673-7646 Rose French • 612-673-4352

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  • THE FORECAST

    TODAY

    97 80

    High Low

    WEDNESDAY

    99 81

    High Low

    THURSDAY

    89 74

    High Low

    FRIDAY

    90 71

    High Low

    SATURDAY

    91 74

    High Low

    SUNDAY

    90 73

    High Low

    Details, B8

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