AUBURN — A mix of high temperatures and ozone concentration levels has caused the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to issue an air quality alert for Tuesday, and it does not appear conditions will ease up much for Independence Day or into Thursday.

“Ground-level ozone concentrations will be climbing in Maine on Tuesday, and are expected to reach unhealthy levels,” according to a statement issued by the DEP.

Taylor Patterson, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Gray, said temperatures across the central Maine region will hover above 90 degrees through Thursday, with virtually no chance of rain.

“There will be a small trace overnight Tuesday,” Patterson said, “but not really anything until Friday, when it starts to cool down.”

The Maine DEP meteorologists do not expect ozone levels will be unhealthy this week, but still urged people take precautions, if necessary.

Children, active adults and people with respiratory diseases, such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can experience reduced lung function and irritation at elevated ozone levels.

“It is important to remember that people living in northern climates are less acclimated to the heat and therefore can be impacted at lower temperatures,” according to the DEP statement said.

Elevated temperature and poor air quality can also lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

The National Weather Service advises dressing for the heat, staying hydrated and applying sunscreen.

If you feel dizzy or lightheaded, clammy, nauseous or weak, health offcials recommend getting to a cooler area and drinking cool water. If those symptoms persist or worsen, seek medical care.

Many people across the region are expected to visit area ponds and lakes this week.

“As long as there’s no thunder, we try to get them in the water,” said Camille Fontaine, summer camp coordinator for Camp Golden Pond in Belgrade.

The region is dotted with streams, rivers, ponds and lakes that offer opportunities to stay cool in searing heat.

Patterson said the water temperature in the region’s large lakes is expected to be about 69 degrees through the middle of the week.

To mitigate the effects of extreme heat, many Maine residents and visitors are looking to buy air conditioners, but because of the scorching weather, they are coming up emptyhanded.

Rodney Wohlford, manager of Lowe’s in Augusta, said air conditioners are in short supply.

“If you want to walk out of here with an air conditioner today,” Wohlford said Monday, “you aren’t going to be able to.”

A shipment is expected Monday night, and every night this week from the Lowe’s distribution center.

“We actually had a truckload redirected to us specifically because of the forecast,” he said. Those air conditioners were sold out in three days.

For those who can wait, Wohlford recommended going online to check out the Lowe’s website, where they can get a specific shipping date. For those who cannot wait, some are opting to buy fans to keep the air moving at their homes, he said.

“We’ve dropped every (fan) we have on the floor,” he said. “They’re selling almost as fast as air conditioners.”

Auburn Public Library director Mamie Ney said the library will be open all week, except Wednesday, if people are looking for a place to stay cool.

“They can come to the library during regular business hours,” Ney said. “We have books, magazines, games and public computers.”

The library is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day, and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.

“We may even show a movie or two if our programming schedule allows it,” Ney said.

Dr. Michael Lambke of Redington-Fairview General Hospital in Skowhegan cautioned that people take it easy, especially during the sunniest, hottest parts of each day.

“Keeping your activity low during the heat of the day is important,” Lambke said, “and doing your activities that take energy in the morning or at nighttime, when it gets cooler, is a good idea.”


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