Where to escape record-breaking heat in the Des Moines metro and keep cool

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DES MOINES, Iowa — Despite Thursday expected to be the hottest day of the year so far, Polk County has decided not to open cooling centers. Public Health Communications Officer, Polk County Health Department, Nola Aigner Davis, says Polk County considers how long a heatwave will last when making that decision.

“If we do see overnight cooling like we did last night, that’s really beneficial,” Davis said. “If it’s something for only a day and we know that individuals will get relief, we typically don’t open relief centers.”

The Polk County Health Department takes direction from the National Weather Service and uses a health weather warning program. With this program, the county considers how the temperature and humidity will affect a person’s body. 

At the highest, it is supposed to reach 100 degrees Thursday. However, there will be overnight cooling with the low temperatures being around 72 degrees. 

So instead of opening cooling centers, Polk County is advising Iowans to stay hydrated and spend at least two hours in air conditioning in places such as malls, grocery stores, and libraries.

Central Iowa Shelter Services is accepting all guests this week and the nonprofit, Joppa will be giving out water, food, sunscreen, and medical supplies. 

The city of Des Moines encourages people to visit its recreation centers to stay cool while also enjoying some indoor activities.

“We do have recreation centers that are air-conditioned so if people are looking for a place to get out of the heat, those are available they’re open 8 am to 8 pm,” Marketing Supervisor, Jen Fletcher said. “It costs $1 to get in, but there’s plenty of things to do, there’s a fitness area, there’s ping pong, there’s open recreation in the gym.” 

The public libraries in Ankeny, Des Moines, and Urbandale are also serving as cooling centers during the day.

The city of Waukee says its Public Safety Building at 1300 SE L.A. Grant Parkway is open during times of extreme heat for use as a cooling shelter. Its hours are 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m. on weekdays.

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