SUMMER SWELTER

Jordan Gogo | Daily Press

The Mestas brothers - Ben, 6, left, and Copper, 10 - cool off while playing at the Splash Pad in Tahlequah, located next to Love's on Downing Street.

Summertime is a season many Tahlequah residents want to spend outside. But with temperatures continuing to rise into three digits, families may want to find ways to cool off and stay safe, as well as save money.

There are several tips people are recommended to follow to stay safe - including, most importantly, drinking water.

"When we're in the heat, we start sweating to cool off," said Carl Wallace, Oklahoma State University Extension educator and county director. "If we don't add water back into our bodies, it could lead to severe dehydration or something worse, like a heat stroke."

He recommends that people should regularly eat fruits containing water - like watermelon, cantaloupe and peaches - to hydrate the body.

"Something I personally like to do is take a wet rag and drape it over my head," said Wallace. "Your head is one of the most exposed areas to overheating."

The Tahlequah area offers several options for families wanting to enjoy cold water on a hot day, including the Splash Pad. It's a free resource to which Mike Walker frequently takes his children, Ben and Copper Mestas.

"We live by the lake, so usually we can take them swimming there, but we can't because of the flooding," said Walker. "We're thinking about checking out the swimming pool, but when you bring your kids somewhere multiple times, the cost can add up. We just come to the Splash Pad because they really like it and it's free."

Splash Pads are located in both Tahlequah and Hulbert, among several other free resources available, including Lake Tenkiller and the Illinois River.

Families wanting to stay home have access to many water activities in their backyards. Inexpensive above-ground pools are available at Walmart, as are tarps that can be used as slides when combined with a hose. Garden hoses can also be attached to sprinklers, spray nozzles and more.

Above all, Wallace stresses staying hydrated and being aware of the intensity of the heat.

"We know when the hottest times of the day are," said Wallace. "If you have a choice to do your activities earlier or later than 2 or 3 p.m., you should try to stay out of that heat."

Mike Doublehead, general manager of the Tahlequah Public Works Authority, recommends that area residents heat or cool only the rooms they are using, and they should close off unused rooms.

"Set your thermostat at the highest or lowest comfortable setting for each season. Try 72 degrees or higher in the summer and 68 degrees or lower in the winter," he said. "Run your pool pump in the evening or early morning hours and reset your pool timer to run during off-peak hours."

Doublehead said to shade outdoor air conditioning equipment and keep it low to the ground to reduce energy consumption by 40 percent or more. Keep outside heat pumps clear of debris and snow.

"Clean or replace cooling or heating filters monthly, " said Doublehead. "Have your heating and cooling equipment serviced or checked at least once a year."

Other tips include be sure that drapes are not blocking vents and close drapes and shades to keep direct sunlight out and to lower cooling costs in summer.