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."