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Boston responds to heat wave

Posted by Jeremy C. Fox  July 20, 2011 05:19 PM

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With temperatures in Boston already above 90 degrees on Wednesday and expected to break 95 in the next two days, the city is opening cooling centers and extending pool hours, while Mayor Thomas M. Menino cautions citizens to stay cool and hydrated.

While the dangers of extreme heat are real, especially for children and the elderly, many Bostonians are taking the high temperatures in stride, even welcoming them as a respite from the brutal winter of 2011.

“After the snowpocalypse that happened this past winter, how is anyone going to complain about a heat wave?” asked Mo Masterson, 27, a native of Lincoln, Mass., who now lives in California but is visiting Boston for the week.

Winchester resident Diane Lopez, 42, agreed.

“I love the heat,” she said. “The winters are so — I’m a New Englander, born here, but the winters are what we complain about. We have to live through it. This is why we live through those winters. For this type of weather.”

David Rosenbaum, 33, visiting Boston on business from Charlotte, N.C., was unimpressed with Boston’s idea of hot.

“It’s not that big a deal,” Rosenbaum said. In North Carolina, he said, the temperatures tend to be a bit higher but the humidity is also greater. Still, he felt some empathy for Bostonians.

“You may not see the heat as much, but y’all’s winters are certainly a lot more severe than ours, so I think it kind of balances out,” he said.

Others were more concerned about making it through the next few days.

“I have no AC, so I can just imagine how hot it’s going to be,” said Sonide Bourgoin, 23, who lives in Dorchester.

Area residents interviewed downtown on Wednesday afternoon said they would take precautions during the heat wave, such as drinking lots of water and planning outdoor activities for the early morning or the evening when it’s cooler. Some said the heat actually made them appreciate those hours of the day more.

“I think hot days are great for late-night walks, too,” Masterson said. “Where you go after dinner and have your constitutional. I think that that’s what summer in Boston is all about, being able to stay out a little bit later and have a good time.”

Many looked forward to trips to the ocean or to public pools, and to summertime treats like ice cream and other cold foods and drinks. Some, though, were most interested in finding an air-conditioned spot and staying there.

But as the use of air-conditioning has greatly expanded in recent decades, has it softened up some supposedly hardy New Englanders? Many think so.

Thomas J. Murphy, 65, a retired firefighter originally from Chelsea, recalled the days when cooling off at home meant a block of ice in the family icebox.

“It’s come a long way,” he said. “I think technology’s a good thing.”

Lynne Pesce, a Lynn resident who described her age as “over 60,” agreed that the comfort had made life easier.

“There are so many places you can go now to cool off,” she said. “It’s not like you’re stuck sitting in a hot office or a hot store or anything. Everything’s air-conditioned.”

Email Jeremy C. Fox at jeremycfox@gmail.com.

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