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Hit hard by the heat: Retailers see big run on air conditioners

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news Detroit Lakes, 56501
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

It's the question everyone is asking, 'Is it hot enough for ya?'

Scorching temperatures in the lakes area are into the 90's with high humidity kicking in to form heat indexes into the 100's -- numbers most around here just aren't used tao.

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Air conditioning units are now a hot commodity as many local stores that typically sell them are fresh out.

Menards is out, as is L&M Fleet and possibly D&D Repair & Appliance in Detroit Lakes.

"We have one left," said D&D's Sales Manager, Chris Gravdahl, who says customers have pretty much been wiping them out since last week.

"We can get a few UPS'd here from one distributor that still has some, but that'll still take a few days, and by that time the heat wave is supposed to be over," Gravdahl said, adding that once a store is out of air conditioning units, they're usually out for the rest of the summer because of ordering restraints.

"By the end of July, beginning of August, most distributors don't have any left or they only have a few, select sizes."

But even some of the lucky homeowners who do have air conditioning are seeing their units bite the dust.

"When the coils are dirty, the unit can't suck air very well and it can cause electrical problems," said Aire Serv Heating and Air Conditioning Marketing Manager Tara Weber.

This, along with other maintenance issues, has kept service technicians there incredibly busy as well.

"All of our service guys are out right now, but there are six of them working our 24/7 line for emergencies," said Weber.

One place where the air conditioning is working is the Washington Square Mall, which Mall Manager Dawn Olson says has been booming since the heat wave.

"It's been very beneficial for us," said Olson. "The movie theater, Raceway Hobby -- all the stores are seeing increased sales, and restaurants, too, because the last thing people want to do when it's this hot is cook."

The playground at the Boys and Girls Club of Detroit Lakes isn't exactly bustling, though, particularly in the afternoon.

90 to 109 kids gather there every weekday for daylong summer camp, and excessive heat warnings has officials there taking extra precautions.

"We do a lot of indoor activities," said Program Director Tahnee Moe, "If we do go outside, it's very limited and in the shade. We haven't had to cancel field trips yet, but if it's an outdoors one in the afternoon, we just might."

Moe says they also constantly push fluids on the children throughout the day -- something doctors say is the number one thing to do in weather like this.

"We do see a lot of people coming in with heat exhaustion," said Dr. Mark Lindquist, medical director for St. Mary's Emergency Room.

Lindquist says because people here don't see this type of weather often, they tend to greatly underestimate how much water their bodies are losing throughout the day.

He says although being out in the heat for long periods of time contribute to heat exhaustion, body temperature is often still normal, and it is simply fluids that the body needs.

"And being thirsty is not a good indicator of your body's fluid level because by the time you're thirsty, you're already significantly low," Lindquist said, adding that bathroom breaks are a much more reliable indicator of a body's fluid level.

"If a person doesn't feel the need to go very often, it's time to step it up."

Lindquist says alcohol and caffeine can contribute to the problem, as both are diuretics.

"For every 12-ounce beer or cup of coffee you drink, you put out 13 ounces of urine."

Lindquist says symptoms of heat exhaustion include light-headedness, headache, clammy skin, muscle cramping, and a feeling of being thirsty and hot.

Lindquist says once a person stops sweating, the problem becomes much more serious.

"When a body can't cool itself down, it sets off a chain of events that leads to heat stroke," said Lindquist, "that can be very serious, even fatal."

Lindquist says although the body is greatly deficient in fluids at this point, body temperature will also spike to 106 to 108 degrees -- which can then cause brain damage.

Other symptoms for heat stroke include fast heartbeat, changes in a personal mental status like confusion and becoming lethargic or unconsciousness.

Heat stroke requires immediate medical attention, while heat exhaustion can often be remedied with fluids.

Pets are no exception to these medical concerns, as experts say dogs and cats have no way to cool themselves off besides panting.

"Certain breeds are more prone to these problems," said Dr. James McCormack, who is a veterinarian at the Detroit Lakes Animal Hospital. "Pugs, Boston Terriers -- any animals with the small noses struggle with this more because their cooling capabilities happen through their sinuses."

McCormack says animals are over heated when they begin panting and drooling excessively, acting agitated (like they are trying to find a cooler place by digging), are unsteady on their feet or their gums change from pink to reddish purple.

Because pets have few cooling mechanisms, McCormack says keeping water fresh and cool is helpful, recommending adding ice cubes for owners who will be gone throughout the day.

For those who aren't stoked about the heat, relief is on the way.

The forecast has the high temperatures "dipping" back down into the 80s by Thursday.

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