SOUTHERN INDIANA — Around noon Friday, the heat index registered at Death Valley was 97 degrees. In New Albany, that figure was at 105 degrees.
Nobody in the area needs to be told that it is indeed hot in Southern Indiana this weekend. But some may not be aware of just how dangerous such high temperatures actually are.
In fact, the nationwide heat wave is so intense that it has already taken lives, including that of 32-year-old former NFL player Mitch Petrus, who died of heat stroke after working outside at his family shop in Arkansas on Thursday.
At New Albany Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc., representatives said phones have been "ringing off the hooks" from customers having problems with their cooling systems.
To reduce harm caused by the steamy conditions, officials from numerous areas of expertise are stepping up to provide relief to the public. New Albany officials even pushed the city's Bicentennial Park Concert to 7:30 p.m. Friday to allow temperatures to drop.
"The heat is oppressive," said Haven House director Barb Anderson, who opened up the doors at the shelter due to a white flag emergency stemming from the heat. "This is the kind of heat that can kill people, and many of the folks on the street are not healthy. Breathing problems, heart problems, all of those things enter into their lives. We don't want to see anybody die. We don't want to see anybody sit on a park bench and roast."
Anderson said that if someone is spotted in the sun, whether it be streetside or in a park, it's important to point them toward a place where they can get hydrated and cool off, like the Haven House. Though it has already exceeded its capacity, the shelter is taking in more people to reduce preventable harm caused by the heat.
"Please take a minute and be compassionate and say there's a shelter down the street," Anderson said. "It's everybody's job to help with this, not just ours."
Officials from Exit 0 already helped two families find shelter at the Haven House as of Friday afternoon. At this point, director Paul Stensrud said he believes he has found arrangements for everybody that has contacted Exit 0 this week.
"Right now, we've only got two families that have gone to the shelter," Stensrud said. "I have put three people into extended stays. We talked to another gentleman who has connected with Veterans Affairs. He's staying with a friend right now until they get him in over in Louisville."
Aside from making sure families have somewhere to stay, other organizations are also helping with the cause through other routes. Multiple Salvation Army sites throughout the area announced that they would have "cooling stations" open to the public this weekend.
Cadet Gunther Briceno said that locations throughout the area were open an extra two hours until 6 p.m. during the week, with the Corydon and Clarksville stores staying open until 5 p.m. Saturday.
"The weather outside is too hot, so we're offering to the community a place to relax and a place to drink cold water," Briceno said. "All the community is invited to come. We are doing this without discrimination. You don't need to fill out some form. Just come, and that's it."
Sarah Futter said the Clarksville location has already seen plenty of foot traffic as the heat has risen this week. On Thursday, she noted that the store went through five 24-packs of water. An additional 10 cases were delivered to the location Friday.
"Yesterday, we had about 10 homeless people come in from their bikes," Futter said. "They stopped in and got some water and sat down for a while. Some of our regular customers came in dripping sweat, so they got some water as well."
Efforts to ensure people have enough food and water have also helped at the Haven House, where Anderson said the general public has played a major role.
"We put the call out for water and food," Anderson said. "People are dropping stuff off daily. One woman actually started a Facebook page to raise money for extra food this weekend. In addition to that, people are just stopping by with food. Somebody brought us two or three cases of water this morning, and we need more. There's just only so much water that's available when you're housing people."
Stensrud added that if anybody else is in need of services to contact Park Memorial Church in Jeffersonville or Exit 0.