State officials issued a health warning Friday, urging Mainers to “keep cool, drink fluids and lie low” as temperatures and humidity rise to potentially dangerous levels Saturday and Sunday.

And communities across Maine advised residents who need relief from the heat to go to local cooling stations such as public libraries, community centers and fire stations that will be kept open to the public.

The air temperature is expected to hit 96 degrees in Portland on Saturday and could reach 100 degrees in southwest York County along the New Hampshire border, the National Weather Service said. Portland could match or exceed its record-high for the date: 96 degrees on July 20, 1949.

But it will feel even warmer because of the high humidity. The heat index, a measure of how hot it feels when relative humidity is factored with the actual air temperature, will make it feel like it’s 100 degrees in Portland by Saturday afternoon, according to the weather service in Gray. It could feel like 105 degrees in Sanford and 110 degrees in Nashua, New Hampshire, on Saturday.

Sunday is expected to be nearly as hot.

On a hot day, swimmers fill the Alfond Municipal Pool in Waterville. David Leaming/Staff Photographer

Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, advised people to stay cool, watch for signs of heat illness and check on friends and family.

“Heat-related illnesses and deaths are preventable,” Shah said. “With hot weather, we are especially concerned about older Mainers, particularly those who live alone, because they are more likely to have serious health problems. Keeping cool, drinking adequate fluids, and lying low, along with looking after our neighbors, families and friends will help us all to stay healthy during heat waves this summer.”

Signs of heat-related illness include dry, hot, red skin, a rapid pulse, high temperature, headache, confusion or loss of alertness, rapid breathing, unconsciousness or coma. The CDC advises people who see someone with those signs to immediately call 911 and move the person out of the sun, loosen their clothes and cool them rapidly with ice, fans, cold water or wet cloths.

In Maine, people over 65 represent the largest proportion of people who are hospitalized for heat-related illness. Lack of air conditioning, taking prescription medication, and physical or mental health challenges common among older adults increase the potential for heat-related illnesses, the CDC said.

Cooling stations will be open throughout the weekend in many towns and cities. In Portland, the public library’s main branch at 5 Monument Square will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. City officials urged people to cool off at the Deering Oaks Ravine, the Kiwanis Pool and the splash pads located around the city.

Other local cooling centers in Cumberland County include the Falmouth Family Ice Center from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday; Freeport Community Library from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday; Scarborough Public Library from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday; Gray Public Library from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday; and South Portland Main Library from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday. The Westbrook Community Center will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and the Cornelia Warren Outdoor Pool will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

In York County, cooling centers will be open at Lebanon Fire and EMS from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and at the Cornish Town Hall from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Additional cooling centers will open Saturday at the Saco Transportation Center, Alfred Town Hall and South Berwick Community Center. Buxton residents who need a place to cool off should call 929-5151 to be put in touch with an emergency management representative.

Biddeford officials announced Friday that the Seeds of Hope Neighborhood Center at 35 South St. will be a cooling center for the weekend. Cold drinks will be available. The center will be open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday.

The Maine Emergency Management Agency is keeping a list of cooling centers updated on its website.

The heat prompted Scarborough Downs to cancel live harness racing scheduled for Saturday because the heat could present unacceptable risks for participating. A decision will be made early in the weekend about whether Sunday races will be held as scheduled.

On Friday, Laura Dubreuil and Tina Murray staked out a spot at the Winthrop town beach in the shade and watched their kids play in the water and on the beach. Their plans for Saturday were fairly straightforward.

“We plan to stay inside in the air conditioning,” said Dubreuil, of Winthrop. “The kids will go swimming.”

Murray said her family will join friends who have a house in Owl’s Head near the beach, but also relies on air conditioning when summer weather gets uncomfortable.

“We are definitely snow people,” Murray said. “We like the snow.”

“I don’t like the hot weather,” Dubreuil said. “That’s why we live here, because it doesn’t get so hot.”

Kennebec Journal Staff Writer Jessica Lowell contributed to this report.


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