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Richmond's heat dome is only getting hotter this weekend

A person takes off their hat as they are about to enter the cooling station
Shaban Athuman
/
VPM News
A person walks into the Department of Social Services’ cooling station on Thursday, June 20, 2024 in Richmond, Virginia.

A city spokesperson said cooling stations will be announced Friday.

Richmond has been under a heat dome this week, with heat indexes (a feels-like temperature that accounts for humidity, though not direct sun) into the 90s every day — and it’s expected to only get hotter this weekend.

The National Weather Service says to use “extreme caution” when the heat index is over 90 degrees Fahrenheit: That means you should limit physical activity in the sunlight and stay hydrated.

But not everyone has an easy way out of the elements.

Taylor Neeley is the outreach services director at Daily Planet Health Services, which serves the city’s unhoused population. Daily Planet helps people who don’t have access to their own air conditioning get connected to services like city-run cooling stations.

“Folks who have chronic medical conditions — it’s really dangerous to be out in heat,” Neeley said. “We know there’s heat-related deaths that happen across the nation every year, and there’s emergency room visits that come up.”

There were 120 reported emergency room visits for heat-related illnesses in Richmond last year, according to state data. There were 2,656 across the commonwealth in 2023. (Heat-related deaths are not reported in this data set.)

According to federal data, there were 2,302 heat-related deaths in the U.S. last year.

Richmond operates cooling centers when the temperature is forecasted to be 92 degrees F or higher at Marshall Plaza and Southside Plaza. They are open Monday to Saturday and offer access to A/C and cold water. The Richmond Public Library system also provides respite during normal operating hours, and GRTC buses have A/C and free fares.

Neeley looks on with blue clouds behid them
Shaban Athuman
/
VPM News
Taylor Neeley, Director of Outreach Services at Daily Planet Health Services, talks about the rise in temperature on Thursday, June 20, 2024 at Daily Planet Health Services in Richmond, Virginia.

It’s going to be similarly hot on Sunday, with a forecast high of 97 F — a city spokesperson said more info about cooling stations over the weekend will be released on Friday. (VPM News will update this article once it is.)

Neeley said people can help by donating water to Daily Planet or other community organizations — RVA Community Fridges is also asking for donations of water and hydrating fruit at its 14 fridges throughout the city.

Neeley also said to look out for people who may be suffering from heat illness: confusion, nausea, profuse sweating or lack of sweating, weakness, muscle cramps or spasms, and fainting are all indicators.

“We are going out and we are willing to meet folks wherever they may be,” Neeley said.

Daily Planet has a Google Form anyone can fill out to notify outreach workers of the location of someone experiencing homelessness, so staff can reach out to them.

Researchers project that excessive heat days will become more frequent in the coming years. Under a “business as usual” emissions scenario — where humans continue to use fossil fuels without concerted efforts to reduce carbon emissions — Richmonders can expect about 26 more extreme heat days every year by 2050, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Surrounding counties like Henrico, Chesterfield and Powhatan have roughly the same outlook. Southwest Virginia localities would likely have a greater increase from current excessive heat days — 37 more days in Scott and Wise counties, for example.

More information on Richmond cooling services can be found by calling 804-646-1196. Services for elderly residents with cooling issues are available through Adult Services at (804) 646-8865.

Richmond cooling stations

Monday–Saturday

  • Department of Social Services Marshall Plaza: 900 E. Marshall St., Suite 160, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
  • Department of Social Services - Southside Plaza: 4100 Hull Street Road, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Monday–Sunday*

Richmond Public Library hours of operation

  • Main Library: 101 E. Franklin St.
  • Belmont Library: 3100 Ellwood Ave.*
  • Broad Rock Library: 4820 Old Warwick Road
  • East End Library: 1200 N. 25th St.*
  • Ginter Park Library: 1200 W. Brook Ave.
  • Hull Street Library: 1400 Hull St.*
  • North Avenue Library: 2901 North Ave.*
  • West End Library: 5420 Patterson Ave.
  • Westover Hills Library: 1408 Westover Hills Blvd.*

*closed on Sundays

Patrick Larsen is VPM News' environment and energy reporter, and fill-in host.
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