Islanders cope with record temperatures

Stefan Talke, center, holds his daughter Anneke, while taking in the “rain,” courtesy of Vashon Island Fire & Rescue, at Ober Park. - Indigo Studios Photography
Stefan Talke, center, holds his daughter Anneke, while taking in the “rain,” courtesy of Vashon Island Fire & Rescue, at Ober Park.
— image credit: Indigo Studios Photography

The mercury in thermometers around the region is lingering at typical numbers this week, while forecasters are predicting cooler days and even rain, but last week’s scorcher is still emblazoned in people’s minds.

The record heat brought plenty of challenges to people on the Island, but for those who took to the unusually balmy water of Puget Sound or found other creative ways to cool off, there were also rare summertime pleasures.

The heat was predicted before it came, but many were unprepared for its intensity, with air conditioners and fans flying off the shelves at Island stores.

Both True Value and Island Lumber sold out of fans repeatedly, staff at both stores said. Kiddie pools were a hot item at True Value, and in a true measure of people’s efforts to cool off, the store also sold out of its entire stock of Popsicle molds.

Many Islanders went to the library for cool comfort when they were unable to find it at home, said Managing Librarian Hester Kremer.

“There were so many people coming in with their laptops, there was no room at the tables,” she said. “We opened up the meeting room to handle the overflow.”

Families and caregivers also brought seniors in to relax and cool off.

On Wednesday, the hottest of the days, a magic show was set to begin in the meeting room when the power went out. Staff found battery-operated lights and flashlights, and the show went on. It ended around the time Vashon Island Fire & Rescue (VIFR) brought one of its water tenders to the park to cool people off.

“The kids were screaming with joy as the firefighters sprayed the adults sitting on the berm, thinking they would not be part of it,” Kremer said.

The library had to close at 5 p.m. that day, Kremer noted, because of a King County Library Services policy to close after two hours without power because of potential health risks associated with not having a working ventilation system.

For VIFR personnel, the heat wave was about much more than the fun of spraying cold water on overheated Islanders.

Late in the afternoon on both Wednesday and Thursday, VIFR personnel went out to check on the welfare of some of the Island’s senior citizens, who are especially vulnerable to heat, according to Brett Kranjcevich, an assistant chief at VIFR.

Between 5 and 6 p.m. Wednesday, firefighters responded to five calls, three of which were fire alarms, whose heat sensors had likely gone off because of the high temperatures, Kranjcevich said. And early Thursday morning, firefighters were called out to fight a brush fire just north of Cove Road.

At the Vashon Maury Community Food Bank, it was just plain hot, said Yvonne Pitrof, the food bank’s director.

The old brick building on Sunrise Ridge is on one of the highest points of the Island and is in full sun throughout the day.

Wednesday was distribution day for the food bank, and Pitrof made a large cooler of water for people waiting in line and brought in chairs and bottled water for the volunteers, many of whom are seniors.

“They did great,” Pitrof said.

The evening distribution, from 5 to 7 p.m., proved more difficult than the one earlier in the day, however.

It was the hottest part of the day when the power failure knocked out the facility’s electricity. There were no longer fans to move the hot air, no windows to open, and the three doors let in only limited light.

“We did distribution in the dark,” Pitrof said. “We were not going to shut down, because people need food.”

The food bank served 160 Island families that day, a typical number, according to Pitrof.

With the power out for about 700 homes and businesses into the early evening Wednesday, many Islanders headed south for dinner at the Quartermaster Inn and Restaurant, which was one of the only businesses with power on the Island — and inundated.

There was air conditioning inside, owner Marie Browne said, and even the deck was rather pleasant, with a breeze off the water. But in the kitchen, the temperature climbed to 110 degrees, while staff drank gallons of water and kept the food coming out.

“They need to be commended,” said Browne.

Throughout the hot spell, Islanders took refuge in the water. The Vashon Pool provided welcome relief for many, and Quartermaster Harbor became swimmable, even for those not usually inclined.

Lesley Reed has lived on the Island for 13 years and, like many, has never gotten beyond a brief wade in the chilly water.

But last Wednesday, she and two friends went to Dockton Park, where they joined many Islanders, especially teens, who were diving off the railing of the dock into the water.

“The best part was we floated in this warm layer of water,” Reed said. “ We stayed in for 45 minutes. We could have stayed in forever.”

She loved last week’s heat, she added.

“We’ve gone swimming in the Sound three times, gone biking in the evenings and put up two hammocks in the backyard. It’s like a real summer,” she said.

See more photos from the "community cool-off."

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