SIKESTON -- When temperatures climb into the 90s, most people are fortunate enough to escape into the luxury of an air-conditioned environment -- but there's also a number of people who aren't as lucky.
"You'd be surprised," noted Shirley Moore, director of the energy program for Delta Area Economic Opportunity Corporation. "Many people in the area don't have air conditioning units."
This week the National Weather Service predicts highs to be in lower 90s with a chance of rain today, Wednesday and Thursday for the area.
The elderly, young children and those with illnesses are most affected by heat, Moore said.
"I talked to an 87-year-old lady last week who didn't have an air conditioner, but who was afraid to leave her windows open at night because of fear of burglary. All she had was a little fan so I told her to put a tray of ice in front of it -- which is what I used to do before I had air conditioning -- to produce colder air," Moore said.
Those of who have an air-conditioned car or house don't adjust to the heat as well as those who live or work without air conditioning, Moore pointed out. So there are lots of people who don't have air conditioners and do survive, she said.
Moore offered several suggestions for keeping cool that clients have told her over the years: use an electric fan, wear less clothing, visit a neighbor or family member who has air conditioning; keep blinds pulled to keep the sun out, let kids play outside in the water; take cool showers, keep a cool, wet towel around your head and neck and put aluminum foil around windows.
The Center for Disease Control also recommends people whose home does not have air conditioning to go shopping at a mall or public library -- even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat.
Since July 2, temperatures have been between 87 and 93 degrees, according to meteorologist Michael York of the National Weather Service in Paducah, Ky. "Normal highs for July through August is around 90 degrees. So far it's been a typical hot and humid summer," York said.
Heat indexes, which tell how hot it is when relative humidity is added to the air temperature. The area's had high humidity with heat indexes of 100 degrees which is a little above average, noted York, adding that when the heat index reaches 105 degrees, a heat advisory is issued.
Hot weather has also been keeping air conditioner service people busy.
Floyd Presley of Presley Sales and Service said they've received countless calls since temperatures have risen over the last couple weeks.
"We've been very busy," noted Rick Leonard of Rick Leonard Heating and Air Conditioning. "Basically what we're seeing is units that are dirty, dead compressors and freon leaks."
Both Presley and Leonard said some things can be prevented and recommend people to keep their air conditioner cleaned and filters changed.
"If freon is leaking and left untreated, it can ruin the compressor. The motor gets less cooling when low on charge causing it to run harder and at higher temperatures," Leonard explained.
Another point to remember is that if air conditioning units are serviced, owners can save on utilities, Leonard said. He also pointed out that air conditioning window units can be purchased for under $100 and fans are even cheaper.
Moore said DAEOC loans air conditioning units to area residents who don't have any. Since June 1 DAEOC has loaned air conditioning units to clients in its six-county service area of Mississippi, New Madrid, Scott, Stoddard, Dunklin and Pemiscot counties.
Although most counties have already loaned all of their units this year, DAEOC does offer an energy program to help those who meet the requirements pay their bills. To qualify for the energy program, clients must meet income guidelines and those under 65 must have a shutoff notice, Moore said.
Appointments with DAEOC are needed. For more information, call the DAEOC office at 1-800-748-8320.