Heat wave sends Upper Valley on a hunt for cool relief

  • Kate Ripley, of Chelsea, Vt., and her daughter Ella Bjorkman, 5, float down a small rapid on an inner tube in the White River in Sharon, Vt., on Monday, June 28, 2021. Ripley's boyfriend got off of work early due to the heat, so she and Bjorkman picked him up and went straight to the river. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News / Report For America — Alex Driehaus

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    Larry Martin, of Fairlee, Vt., loads bales of hay onto a conveyor belt that takes them up to his barn where they will be stored until winter in Fairlee, Vt., on Monday, June 28, 2021. Martin said that loading the 125 bales of hay in the heat didn't take as long as he expected. "I dreaded it this morning," he said. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 6/28/2021 9:57:47 PM
Modified: 6/28/2021 9:57:51 PM

WEST LEBANON — Upper Valley residents sought refuge in ice cream cones and swimming holes, municipal officials opened cooling shelters and some farm workers stayed out of the afternoon sun as temperatures rose into the low 90s on Monday.

In Post Mills, Crossroad Farm co-owner Tim Taylor has shifted his workday, having crews start field work at 6 a.m. and finish by noon.

“We’re not going to work all day in a heat like this,” Taylor said. “We’re losing a couple hours a day, which can translate into almost a week’s worth of work that you might not get done.”

After 40 years of farm work, Taylor has noticed the early workdays becoming more frequent year to year. With most of the Upper Valley in a moderate drought, the farm also has had to “irrigate around the clock.”

“At the moment we’re OK, but this can’t really go on for much longer or we’ll be in trouble,” Taylor said.

After a high of 92 on Sunday, the thermometer was back in the low 90s in Lebanon Monday, and the heat wave is expected to run through Wednesday. The National Weather Service issued a heat advisory, and the city of Claremont said the Claremont Community Center’s large lobby is available as a cooling site, including from 5:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. through Thursday. Claremont’s Fiske Free Library will also be open as a cooling site from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesday and Friday.

In Lebanon, the Fire Department has designated Kilton Public Library as a cooling area from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, with cold bottled water available as supplies last. Masks are required.

“We welcome everybody who wants to use the building,” said Lebanon Library director Sean Fleming. So far, he said the people he’s seen trying to escape the heat are mostly those who are homeless or otherwise unable to find shelter to keep cool.

“That was most difficult for me during the pandemic … knowing that it wasn’t available for people living on the margins of society,” Fleming said.

Although a brief thunderstorm that dropped heavy rain on West Lebanon brought momentary relief Monday afternoon, National Weather Service meteorologist Peter Banacos said the shower ultimately made the weather worse. When the rain stopped, the dew point in Lebanon was at 76, raising the humidity to “the oppressive category,” he said. Banacos said a dew point of 76 is more typical of Florida during the summer months. Banacos expected temperatures to drop to the upper 80s on Wednesday before seeing relief in the 70s on Thursday and Friday.

The hot weather was good for business at ice cream stands.

Ed and Sue McGee stopped at Dairy Twirl for ice cream — getting one for their dog Chester, too — and said they were going to a favorite swimming spot to cool off.

“We’re heading to Canaan Street Lake to jump in,” Ed McGee said.

Joanna Graber was cooling off with daughter Samyra at Lebanon Veterans Memorial Pool. “I love the pool. I love the people,” Graber said.

Yael Girard, who recently moved to the Upper Valley for a new job, found an access point on the White River off Route 14 in Hartford Village after looking at Google.

“I was on my way to check into the hotel and I was like this is ridiculous, I’m not going to sit in a hotel,” Girard said. Originally from Tennessee and later California, she said “this feels pretty pleasant.”

Public safety officials reminded the public to hydrate and stay cool, and that those who are at highest risk include people 65 and older, children younger than two, and people with chronic diseases or mental illnesses. According to the National Weather Service, young children and pets should never be left unattended in vehicles, and strenuous activities should be rescheduled to the early morning or evening, when possible.

The hot weather, however, hasn’t been all bad. Taylor, at Crossroad Farm, said the heat sweetens the strawberries, yielding what he thinks is the best crop of strawberries the farm has ever had.

“I always like to spin on the positive side,” Taylor said. “While this is all happening the quality of … everything is excellent, and we’re doing OK, but we hope it rains.”

Jasmine Taudvin can be reached at jtaudvin@vnews.com.

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