Last Week’s Heat Wave ‘Sizzled’

Community endures scorching temperatures

By Michael Turton

Sisters Tania, left, and Dhelma Salazar of Fort Lee, N.J., cooled off at Moo Moo's Creamery after hiking Breakneck Ridge during the heat wave.

Sisters Tania, left, and Dhelma Salazar of Fort Lee, N.J., cooled off at Moo Moo’s Creamery after hiking Breakneck Ridge during the heat wave.

On a frigid Saturday back in January, officials from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) met with local residents to discuss the implications of climate change. In addition to rising water levels in the Hudson River, part of their message was that we can expect hotter summers.

Few likely challenged that prediction last week as temperatures stayed above 90 degrees daily, edging very close to triple digits. If DEC’s prediction holds true, such heat waves may become more than occasional. Last week underscored how extreme weather affects every aspect of community life – from how businesses fare and what we choose to eat and drink, to our health, our work and even our pets. There are lessons to be learned from last week’s torrid temperatures – on a number of fronts.

Seniors and pet owners need to take precautions

Cold Spring physician Dr. Cipriano Vamenta said seniors have to be especially cautious in hot weather. “It’s very taxing on the heart,“ he said, adding that in extreme heat, older people with heart problems can experience a decrease in blood flow or increased blood pressure leading to chest pain and possible heart failure. “Seniors should stay in a cool place. They should slow their physical activity and drink plenty of non-alcoholic fluids such as water and juices.”

Pets can be at risk as well. Local veterinarian Dr. Peter Bach said that dogs need water “at least every two hours” during hot spells. What he does not recommend is hosing down a dog in extreme heat. “It lowers their body temperature too quickly.” Instead, he suggests using a cloth moistened with ice water to wash the dog’s face, paws and ears to give them relief. He also thinks putting ice cubes in their water dish is a good idea.  “Every dog loves that.”

Dogs cool themselves by panting but Bach said that owners of certain breeds need to be more watchful during hot weather. “Short-snouted dogs such as Boxers and pit bulls have a harder time panting off heat,” he said. Cats on the other hand, tolerate heat better than dogs – unless they are very young or old, Bach said.

Some businesses thrive, others struggle

No one complained about Foodtown's cold temperatures during last week's heat wave.

No one complained about Foodtown’s cold temperatures during last week’s heat wave.

Foodtown is renowned for its cool-bordering-on-cold aisles. “Last week was the first time no one complained that it was too cold. People loved it,” store manager Paul Satkowski said. “Business was great. We sold a lot of snacks, beer, soda and water. And the deli was very busy – people didn’t want to cook.” Foodtown may be one of the few local businesses that thrive on extreme weather. “Any time weather is an issue, whether it’s snow or heat, business is good,” Satkowski said.

The hot weather also had a big impact on wine sales according to Donny Yannitelli, owner of D. Yannitelli Wines and Spirits. “Wine sales are very temperature related,” he said. During what he described as a sizzling week, “We sold a lot of chilled red wines, sparkling and light, white wines and prosecco. Rose sales were off the charts,” he said.  “Bad weather is usually good for us. When people think they are going to be uncomfortable, they want to make themselves more comfortable.”

Restaurants felt the heat. “Our kitchen was on fire,” said Kamel Jamal, owner of Angelina’s, although he didn’t mean it literally. The problem was breakdowns. “The ice machine, refrigeration units – they can’t keep up. As much money as you think you make – you spend on repairs.” Jamal said the heat wave affected customers and staff alike. “Employees get fatigued. Consumers have no patience, they get angry. Nobody wants to be where they are.” He said pizza was popular because it’s light, affordable and quick. “Soup was out though,” he said.

Jimmy Ely, owner of the Riverview Restaurant had a similar experience. “We couldn’t use the outdoor seating,” he said. “Heat can dampen the appetite. We didn’t sell too many braised short ribs last week.” Ely said that he thinks hot weather can be a healthy thing “once in a while” but prolonged heat waves are a different story. “I closed down last Thursday. I thought everyone needed a break. I didn’t want it to get to the breaking point.”

Air conditioning to the rescue

Pizza remains popular even when temperatures soar.

Pizza remains popular even when temperatures soar.

If there was a common denominator last week as residents sought relief it was the quest to end up somewhere with air conditioning. “We are in the weather business,” said Anthony DeVenuto, owner of Comfort Master Heating and Cooling. It was a busy week for him and his staff. “Anytime you have a week above 90 degrees the calls increase dramatically.” DeVenuto said that the most common problem is air conditioning systems that have lost full capacity. “The system may be OK in moderate temperatures – but in extreme heat you need that capacity.” The root cause? “The biggest problem is lack of maintenance.”

While last week was hectic, it wasn’t the busiest week of the year. “May is more dramatic… the first heat wave. It catches people off guard,” he said. Extreme heat “…helps business but it can become chaotic – more than you can handle.” For some, high heat can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, resulting in the “I’ve had enough call.” DeVenuto said it’s not uncommon for a heat wave to prompt a customer to either buy their first central air system or replace one that has outlived its days. “A heat wave increases the sense of urgency,” he said.

Of hardware stores and ice cream shops

When it gets hot, many wine drinkers turn to chilled and lighter varieties.

When it gets hot, many wine drinkers visiting Yanitelli’s turn to chilled and lighter varieties.

Donny Yanitelli said that when he visited Home Depot last week, “I was the only guy in the store.” It probably wasn’t the ideal week to take on home repairs or that long-delayed yard project. Jerry Howse, who works at A&E Paints in Cold Spring, agrees. “Business was down a tick last week,” he said. “It was just so miserable.” It wasn’t just the weather that was miserable. “When people came in who were working outside, you could tell as soon as they walked in.”

There’s some logic to why hardware stores were quieter last week – but an ice cream parlor? Alexi Katsetos, owner of Moo Moo’s Creamery on Cold Spring’s riverfront said that during the day last week, “There was a little drop-off in sales – it was just so hot.” He said that in the evenings, once temperatures lowered at least a little, sales picked up again.

Outdoor workers feel it most

Do-it-yourself repairs or a bit of painting can be put off until more moderate temperatures reappear, but not everyone has that luxury. Local contractor Stephen Carlson grew up in Arizona and is used to hot summers. He worked outdoors every day last week. Recalling the week’s high temperatures, and humidity that pushed the heat index into the 100s, Carlson said, “That wasn’t like Arizona – it’s dry there. That was more like Houston and southern Texas. It’s like that every day there.”

If anyone had it worse than Carlson and his crew it had to be Tommy Wills and his fellow roofers. “It was 127 degrees on the roof on Thursday,” Wills said. “And on Friday it hit 129.” Wills said that earlier in the week they had worked on a slate roof. “The slate was so hot you couldn’t even touch it.”

Library trumps swimming pool

Butterfield Library offers patrons a cool place to read during hots spells. 

Butterfield Library offers patrons a cool place to read during hots spells.

Swimming pools are one of the most popular ways to cool off. Barb Rifenburg-d’Alessio was house sitting in Garrison last week and was really looking forward to one of the job’s best perks – a refreshing dip in the pool at the end of the day. She dove in – only to find that the water temperature was 92. “It was like a hot bath, without the bubbles!” she said.

One refuge from the heat that did not disappoint was Butterfield Library. “We were busy. We provide people with a cool place – to read the paper or a book or to use the computers,” Head-of-Circulation Jane D’Emic said. “People walk in and say ‘Oh, it’s so nice and cold in here!’” There used to be fewer library patrons in the summer than during the school year, “But now we’re busy all summer,” she said.

Could anything be worse?

Under the heading of “It can always be worse,” earlier this week, Salt Lake City, Utah, tied an unenviable record established in 1940 and repeated in 1961 – 15 days of scorching summer heat that reached 100 degrees or more. Dry or humid – that’s hot.

Photos by M. Turton


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