As people across central Maine stock up for the midweek Fourth of July holiday, they are also scrambling to find ways to keep cool as the region experiences the first scorching heat wave of the summer season.

While Monday’s weather brought a brief break to the heat and oppressive humidity of the weekend, the steamy weather is expected to return for the balance of the week.

Taylor Patterson, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Gray, said temperatures across the central Maine region will hover above 90 degrees through Thursday with virtually no chance of rain.

“There will be a small trace overnight Tuesday, but not really anything until Friday, when it starts to cool down,” Patterson said.

As the temperature and humidity rises, so does the human desire to keep cool. For some it’s a matter of comfort, but for others it’s a more serious matter.

Ann Kim, director of external communications for American Red Cross, Maine Region, said in a news release Monday that rising temperatures and humidity can be deadly. Extreme heat kills more than 600 people in the United States every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Many across the region will take to the lakes and ponds for a chance to cool off.

“As long as there’s no thunder, we try to get them in the water,” Camille Fontaine, summer camp coordinator for Camp Golden Pond in Belgrade, said.

The region is dotted with lakes, ponds and streams that offer up some recreational cooling opportunities.

Patterson said the temperature in the region’s large lakes is expected to be at 69 degrees through the middle of the week.

To mitigate the effects of extreme heat, many Maine residents and visitors are searching out air conditioners, and because of the hot weather forecast, they are coming up empty-handed.

Rodney Wohlford, manager of Lowe’s in Augusta, said air conditioners are in short supply.

“If you want to walk out of here with an air conditioner today,” Wohlford said Monday, “you aren’t going to be able to.”

A delivery is expected Monday night, and every night this week from the Lowe’s distribution center.

“We actually had a truckload redirected to us specifically because of the forecast,” he said. Those were sold out in three days.

For those who can wait, Wohlford recommended going online to check out the Lowe’s website, where they can get a specific shipping date. For those who can’t wait, some are opting to buy fans to keep the air moving in their homes, he said.

“We’ve dropped every one we have on the floor,” he said. “They’re selling almost as fast as air conditioners.”

At Reny’s, the Maine-based department store chain, the situation is the same. While Reny’s doesn’t sell air conditioners, it sells fans, and this week, plenty are being sold.

“We have a good supply,” Reny’s co-owner Adam Reny said Monday. “We’re sending out more today and ordering more today.”

Keeping cool is central to surviving the early hot weather.

The American Red Cross and local doctors say keep hydrated, stay covered, slow down and be cool.

Have a beer with your burger on the 4th, says Dr. Michael Lambke at Redington-Fairview General Hospital in Skowhegan, but chase it with a glass of water.

“You have to have one beer,” Lambke joked. “But take plenty of fluid with the beer. Don’t think that the beer is going to keep you hydrated — you have to drink water or something else besides beer. You can’t drink beer all day.”

Some people are at greater risk of developing a heat-related illness, Kim and Lambke said Monday. They include adults 65 and older, those with chronic medical conditions, people who work outside, infants and children and athletes.

And pets. Don’t forget your pets — check on animals frequently to ensure they are not suffering from the heat. Make sure they have plenty of cool water, the Red Cross says.

Lambke, at Skowhegan Family Medicine, suggests it is best to avoid caffeine and sugary drinks along with alcoholic beverages for holiday festivities.

“Healthy drinks like milk and water and watered-down juice and lemonade are good, too,” he said. “But things like Mountain Dew or Red Bull or coffee or beer are not useful for hydrating us.”

Lambke said older people who are taking fluid pills or diuretics to combat congestive heart failure, for example, should monitor their water intake on hot days. If they’re struggling, they may want to call their doctor, he said.

“The other thing is the direct sun is going to make it hotter,” he said. “Keeping your activity low during the heat of the day is important and doing your activities that take energy in the morning or at nighttime, when it gets cooler, is a good idea.”

Hot cars can be deadly, the Red Cross advises. Never leave children or pets in your vehicle. The inside temperature of the car can quickly reach 120 degrees.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

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Twitter:@Doug_Harlow