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Spokane offers some options for people who need to cool down this week

Two boys wait for their turn to swim, on the edge of Cooper's pool.
Elissa Nadworny
Two boys wait for their turn to swim, on the edge of Cooper's pool.

City code requires Spokane to offer cooling centers in the event of extreme heat. But a planned shelter on Trent Avenue that is intended in part to offer that kind of space won’t open until August at the earliest. Without that permanent space, city officials are directing those who need a break from the heat – whether homeless or those without adequate air conditioning – to city libraries, parks and pools.

In a message released Monday afternoon, Spokane officials said the city’s four public libraries would expand operating hours to 8:00 p.m., beginning Tuesday and lasting through Saturday.

“We are fortunate to have fantastic public facilities that can stretch to meet the needs of our residents quickly when weather conditions become extreme,” says Mayor Nadine Woodward. “They are all really interactive and located in neighborhoods and accessible free of charge.”

The city says it has several reasons why it’s directing people to libraries instead of opening a standalone cooling center: The libraries are available, something that was not the case during last summer’s historic heat waves. They are facilities that are already staffed, intended for public use, and have air conditioning and water. And using already-extant facilities is easier on the city budget.

But the libraries aren’t open all night. People who need cool environments after closing time will need to make other arrangements.

People seeking relief are not being sent to other large facilities, such as community centers and schools, because those places are already booked for summer programs and are not adequately staffed, according to the city.

In addition to the indoor space libraries offer, Spokane leaders say misters will be available at the skate ribbon on the south side of Riverfront Park. People are also encouraged to visit one of Spokane’s 19 splash pads or six public pools. However, as with libraries, splash pads and pools operate on regular hours. Additionally, pools are typically not open on Sundays, and access requires a free “SplashPass,” which can obtained via an online application. If you already have a SplashPass from 2021, you do not need to get a new one this year.

Every county in eastern Washington and north Idaho is under an excessive heat warning, beginning Tuesday morning and lasting through late Friday night. During this period, daytime highs will build rapidly into the upper 90s and 100s in many Inland Northwest communities.

The National Weather Service said Monday that it’s also concerned about nights, which will not provide much relief. Overnight lows will generally be in the upper 60s to low 70s this week, about eight to ten degrees above average for late July.

“Residents without air conditioners will experience a buildup of heat within their home through late in the week,” the Weather Service’s heat warning statement read.

Forecasters also say that while this week’s heat will be serious, daily temperatures will fall slightly short of those recorded in the deadly heat waves of 2021.

Brandon Hollingsworth is your All Things Considered host. He has served public radio audiences for fifteen years, primarily in reporting, hosting and interviewing. His previous ports-of-call were WUOT-FM in Knoxville, Tennessee, and Alabama Public Radio. His work has been heard nationally on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Here and Now and NPR’s top-of-the-hour newscasts.