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Seniors find relief from heat at cooling centers

Lillian Moore takes refuge from the heat playing

Lillian Moore takes refuge from the heat playing bingo in one of the Red Cross' cooling centers at the Islip Senior Center in Brentwood, Tuesday. (July 6, 2010) Photo Credit: Kevin P. Coughlin

George Ehmer walked a mile Tuesday from his Brentwood boardinghouse to the only place he knew he could escape the heat. Weak from a sleepless night, the 65-year-old stopped along the way to buy a red, white and blue bandanna, which he wrapped around his head to soak up sweat streaming into his eyes.

Shaking, he arrived at Islip Town's Caesar Trunzo Senior Center - the only cooling center designated Tuesday by the Suffolk County Office of Emergency Management - sank into a chair and gulped cold water.

A few hours later, after lunch and more water, he was feeling better. "I have a fan, but it doesn't do too much," he said, sitting in an air-conditioned room near a group of seniors playing Wii Bowl. "It just blows the hot air around. I was tossing and turning all night."

Ehmer, a regular at the center, had heard from a neighbor that the center would be open until 9 p.m. for people seeking relief from yesterday's dangerously high temperatures.

The town-run senior center, at 16 Second Ave. in Brentwood, hosted dozens of regular daytime visitors - who were invited to stay past the regular closing time of 4:30 p.m. - and welcomed several new ones with drinks and snacks provided by the Suffolk County Chapter of the Red Cross.

The cooling center will be open again Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., officials said.

As the mercury peaked at 101 degrees Tuesday afternoon at nearby Long Island MacArthur Airport, Ann Monaco, 82, of Central Islip, crowed: "Bingo! Bingo!" She visits the center three times a week, and Tuesday won $17.

"Right now in my house? Oh honey, it would be maybe 85, 86," she said of the temperature.

Reginald Harewood, 32, of Amityville, dropped off his 85-year-old grandmother, Evelyn. The house where the retired IRS tax examiner has lived for 50 years has no air-conditioning, and its windows don't open.

"I woke up drenched this morning," she said, nibbling a toasted bun with butter. "This is nice."

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