MICHIGAN CITY – During the unseasonably cool and rainy days of May and June, many people were wishing for summer heat to arrive. On Thursday, it will, in what forecasters are calling dangerous amounts.

The National Weather Service has issued an Excessive Heat Warning for northern Indiana, southwest Michigan and northwest Ohio from 1 p.m. Thursday through 7 p.m. Saturday.

"Afternoon to early evening temperatures from Thursday through Saturday will be in the 90s, and dewpoints surging into the mid- and upper 70s will create heat indices from around 105 to 110 degrees," the NWS said in its advisory. 

An Excessive Heat Warning means a prolonged period of hot temperatures, and when combined with high humidity, will "create a dangerous situation in which heat illnesses are likely for those spending prolonged periods outside or in non-air conditioned locations."

The weather services urges everyong to drink plenty of fluids, stay in an AC-cooled rooms as much as possible, stay out of the sun, and check on relatives and neighbors.

Mayor Ron Meer echoed those sentiments in a statement announcing that cooling centers will be open around the city for those needing relief.

"Public health officials recommend people spend at least part of the day in an air-conditioned environment," the mayor said. "If you don't have air conditioning or can’t get to an air-conditioned location, take a cool bath or shower during the day. Even a brief spell in cool water or air conditioning allows the body to recover from the cumulative effects of high heat and humidity."

Meer urged residents to check on family, friends, neighbors, pets – especially the elderly – during extended times of high heat and humidity "to make sure everyone stays healthy."

The hot and humid conditions – Wednesday's high of 84 with 66 percent humidity will seem cool – will include heat indices from 95 to 110, according to the weather service.

"The heat is likely to become oppressive by Thursday and persist through Sunday with highs from 90-95 as the upper level ridge builds into the area.

"Heat will build to dangerous levels for at least part of the area Thursday and the entire area Friday through Saturday. Heat indices look to climb in excess of 105 degrees for much of the area," the advisory states.

And there will be no overnight cooling as overnight temperatures in the mid- to upper 70s will offer little relief and "will reduce the ability of the body to recover from daytime heating," according to NWS.

While clouds and a strong breeze could offset how rapidly warming occurs Thursday, the pattern of strong southwesterly flow into the region is favorable for it to occur quickly," the weather service said.

By Thursday night, "confidence is high in a warm and muggy night to set the stage for a hot Friday," according to NWS. By Saturday, the front will be inching southward, but there will be "unimpeded heat."

The chance for thunderstorms increases later Saturday night into Sunday, bringing some relief. Finally, a cold front pushes through Sunday night or early Monday allowing for cooler temperatures in the mid-80s and drier dewpoints to start next week.

While the temperatures will be miserable for Northwest Indiana residents, it can be just as dangerous for the animals at Washington Park Zoo.

"Like the rest of the Michigan City, Washington Park Zoo will be feeling the heat this week," zoo officials said in a statement. "In the face of record temperatures, caregivers are following our plan to keep animals safe and comfortable, so all of the animals may not be out on exhibit and those that are may not be too active."

The zoo will be open, but nearly every animal has access to off-exhibit space where they can retreat for shade and cooler temperatures. "If you see animals outside in the heat, they’re there because they choose to be, and they can always head in," officials said.

Beyond cooling spaces, the animal care staff will offer "extra enrichment to help the species beat the heat.

"Exhibits with pools are filled with cold water, which offers a nice soaking space for tigers, bears and wolves. Other animals have misters or sprinklers, and others, like the deer, tortoise and pigs, get plenty of cooling mud in which to wallow."

Animals will also be given "icy treats, including ice cubes to play in and flavored ice treats to dine on, like frozen 'fish-cicles,' 'fruit-cicles' and 'blood-cicles'," according to zoo officials.

"As always, the well-being of our animals is our top concern, whether the zoo is sweltering in July or covered in ice in January."

Zoo staff also reminds people that while they try to find ways to avoid the heat for the next few days, they should remember to watch their pets, as well as senior friends and family.

Stay cool in Michigan City

With extreme heat and humidity expected over the next few days, city officials are reminding citizens that cooling centers are available at several Michigan City sites. Cooling centers will be available at:

• Michigan City Police Station, 1201 E. Michigan Blvd.; 24 hours a day

• Michigan City Fire Administration Building, 2510 E. Michigan Blvd.; 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday

• Michigan City Senior Center, 2 on the Lake; 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday

• City Hall, 100 E. Michigan Blvd.; 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday

• Michigan City Public Library, 100 E. 4th St.; regular business hours

• Keys to Hope Community Resource Center, 1802 Franklin St.; 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-noon Saturday-Sunday

Any resident needing transportation to a cooling center may call the MCPD non-emergency number at 219-874-3221.

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