Updated: Thursday, 05 Jul 2012, 6:25 PM EDT
Published : Thursday, 05 Jul 2012, 7:03 AM EDT
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - When the Kent County 211 call center operators arrived for work Thursday, they knew it was going to be a busy day. Callers were on hold with questions about cooling centers and help during this heat wave.
The free service provided by the Heart of West Michigan United Way has been overwhelmed with calls, and those calls prompted the Red Cross to open cooling centers in the area.
In just a few hours, the 211 call center had logged more than 200 calls -- which is their normal volume for an entire day. This many calls is more typical for that other extreme weather event -- a snowstorm.
When you call 211, you give your zip code and age and the operators connect you with resources to solve your problem near where you live. Though many calls come from older people, the service is for everyone.
There are eight 211 call centers around the state. You can call from your land line or your cell phone for help.
An Excessive Heat Warning is in effect for Allegan, Barry, Calhoun, Ionia, Kalamazoo, Kent, Montcalm, Muskegon, Ottawa and Van Buren counties until 8 a.m. Saturday.
A Heat Advisory is in effect for Mecosta, Newaygo and Oceana counties until 10 p.m. Friday.
The Ford Fieldhouse at Grand Rapids Community College was closed because of the heat, causing all scheduled events and activities to be canceled. The Fieldhouse is expected to reopen July 9.
The Grand Rapids YMCA Farmers Market was also closed Thursday because of the heat advisories. It is expected to be open Thursday, July 12.
Storm Team 8 says West Michigan is in the midst of the hottest three-day period we have had since at least 1988, and maybe 1936. The record high temperatures for Grand Rapids for each of these three days are all 100 degrees. The last time we reached 100 in Grand Rapids was July 1988. The hottest day ever in Grand Rapids was 108 on July 13, 1936.
The heat wave breaks early next week as high temperatures drop back to the low-mid 80s.
Elderly residents and young children are especially susceptible to the effects of the heat and should take extra precautions.
Some tips for everybody --
Schedule strenuous activities to the early morning or evening hours
Wear lightweight and loose fitting clothing
Drink plenty of water
Take frequent rest breaks in shaded or air-conditioned environments
The new 211 chat function
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