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Greater Boston broils under first extended heat wave of 202203:40
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Children play in the Rings Fountain at the Greenway on a hot day. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Children play in the Rings Fountain at the Greenway on a hot day. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Steve Nelson biked down to Wollaston Beach in Quincy Tuesday morning as the tide was coming in and the mercury was climbing fast.

Nelson figured the beach was a good place to beat the heat for a couple hours.

“I have today off from work so I figured I’d come down here,” he said. “There’s supposed to be a nice breeze off the water."

Scorching temperatures in Greater Boston are expected to last through Sunday. And the heat sent residents scrambling to find places to stay cool.

Further down the beach, Naenae Jacobs of Dorchester had some advice for people who can’t make it to the shore.

“Stay in, drink lots of water,” he said. “And stay under that AC.”

Temperatures were expected to hit 92 degrees Tuesday afternoon and remain above 90 through the weekend. It marks Boston's first extended heat wave of the year.

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu has declared a heat emergency and the city has opened a dozen cooling centers across the city.

“They can cool off, they can be part of our programs, they can have lunch,” said Aidee Pomales, who works at the Grove Hall Senior Center in Dorchester, one of the cooling centers.

But as of Tuesday morning, it was deserted. Not a single person had come. A similar cooling center in Mission Hill was equally empty. But Pomales still thought the service was worth the cost.

“I think it’s very important because we have a lot of community residents that just do not have air conditioners,” Pomales said. Federal data show more than 1 in 10 people in Massachusetts don't have air conditioning.

Boston also encourages people to take advantage of other options, like libraries, malls and movie theaters. Plus, the city operates about 50 outdoor splash pads.

A woman keeps out of the hot sun in the shade of a tree while she reads a book in the Boston Common. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
A woman keeps out of the hot sun in the shade of a tree while she reads a book in the Boston Common. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

But many public health officials say the government has a special responsibility to help people keep cool on sweltering days.

Heat can be deadly, especially for people who are older or have underlying health conditions. In fact, extreme heat kills more people each year than tornadoes, hurricanes or flooding.

The concerns have increased over time because of climate change.

Of course, hot days have always been a normal part of summer weather. But scientists say changing climate patterns are likely producing more heat waves.

“It’s hard to attribute individual events to climate change, but over the course of long periods of time, we do see that temperatures are rising,” said Amruta Nori-Sarma, an assistant professor in the environmental health department at Boston University School of Public Health.

The heat waves could keep getting worse. Last year, the city recorded four heat waves, including one in June that lasted five days.

“We can expect to see heat wave periods that occur more frequently, that are going to be more intense, and are going to last for longer,” Nori-Sarma said.

Four-year-old Paulina plays at the Rings Fountain at the Greenway while she and her family are visiting Boston from Puerto Rico. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Four-year-old Paulina plays at the Rings Fountain at the Greenway while she and her family are visiting Boston from Puerto Rico. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

On Wollaston Beach, Nelson’s cool day on the water was coming to an end. And that meant a return to his job as a laborer outside … in the broiling sun.

"If I hit Mega Millions, I’m not going back to work,” he laughed.

With a little luck, he’ll also find some relief from the heat. But odds are, the scorching summers are here to stay.


Danielle Noyes contributed to this story.

This segment aired on July 20, 2022.

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