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Southeastern Louisiana sees the heat-index rise above 110 degrees

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

A heat wave stretching from Texas to Florida has brought triple-digit temperatures and killed at least 14 people. Keep in mind, this is a part of the country that knows how to handle the heat. Southeastern Louisiana this week has seen the heat index, also known as the feels-like temperature, rise above 110 degrees and staying that way at night. We've called up Sharon Weston Broome - she's the mayor-president of Baton Rouge, La. - to see how her city and its residents are dealing with the heat. Good morning, Mayor. I hope you're staying cool.

SHARON WESTON BROOME: Good morning. Yes. We have some really high heat index, but we do have some good places for people to stay cool.

FADEL: Well, let's talk about that. What are you telling residents of Baton Rouge to do in this heat?

BROOME: Well, of course, we are making sure that we tell people to stay hydrated. We're focused, of course, on our senior citizens, making sure that people check on their neighbor, of course. And we are also telling people that if they do need air conditioning, if they don't have access in their home, we have over 14 locations where people can come and cool off.

FADEL: How unusual is this kind of heat in your city in June?

BROOME: Well, I would definitely say that water and heat are a way of life in South Louisiana, of course. But I think, in June, what we're experiencing right now is pretty exceptional.

FADEL: And you mentioned the vulnerable, the elderly. What type of services are you offering, beyond cooling centers, for people living in poverty, homeless population, the elderly?

BROOME: Well, of course, we have our Council on Aging social workers and case managers who can assist our senior citizens. We have shelters for the homeless population where these agencies have increased their capacity to respond to the heat. We have what we call our hot team and other partners who are going around visiting unhoused and encampments during this time.

FADEL: Are you getting the support you need from the state to deal with this heat in June?

BROOME: Well, yes. I will say, since we are the capital city and we do have a good relationship with our governor, we do collaborate and certainly communicate on how we can make sure that our residents are safe during this time.

FADEL: How worried are you about the fact that the heat has come so early this year and what it might mean for the future of your city generally?

BROOME: Well, of course, you know, I certainly believe that climate change is reality, and we are evidence of that. But I believe because, as I said, heat and water management are a way of life for South Louisiana, that we are prepared - we call it red-stick ready - to help our citizens during this time.

FADEL: So what can other places that are not used to this type of heat and these types of weather-related issues learn from Baton Rouge?

BROOME: Well, one of the things that we do on a regular basis is we communicate with our citizens on all platforms. Whether we need to do a press conference, whether it's social media, we are constantly putting out messages, safety tips, encouraging our citizens to monitor the weather, to stay hydrated. I think that is a sentence you hear from everyone you come in contact with - stay hydrated. We encourage people to be cognizant of leaving pets and people in vehicles. So we just constantly get out the message to our citizens. And we're always emphasizing the buddy system, checking on family members and neighbors. So I would say, during this time, constant communication is something that would definitely be advantageous.

FADEL: And do you expect relief from these high temperatures anytime soon?

BROOME: Well, I know this weekend we are expecting heat, but I believe sometime in the latter part of next week, we will see some relief.

FADEL: Sharon Weston Broome is the mayor-president of Baton Rouge, La. Thank you so much.

BROOME: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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