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DFW Cooling Centers Open As Heat Begins

(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Jeff Ray
Jeff joined CBS 11 and TXA 21 in December 2010. He came to North T...
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Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center manager Patrick Jackson waits in the Reliant Energy 'Beat the Heat' cooling center to interview with CBS 11 News several hours before they open the doors. (credit: Jeff Ray/KTVT/KTXA)

Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center manager Patrick Jackson waits in the Reliant Energy ‘Beat the Heat’ cooling center to interview with CBS 11 News several hours before they open the doors. (credit: Jeff Ray/KTVT/KTXA)

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – It is that time of year when the heat makes us all want to be cool. By that, I mean to GET cool. Not all of us have the air conditioning to do that.

For the fourth year in a row, Reliant Energy is sponsoring two ‘Beat the Heat’ cooling centers in Dallas. CBS 11 News meteorologist Jeff Ray visited the one at Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center, just west of the Fair Park in south Dallas, on Thursday morning. The other center is located at the West Dallas Multipurpose Center.

The center is actually the large front lobby in the primary building on the campus. Reliant Energy has provided a television and ice machine, and set up a booth to help those having trouble paying their electric bill. Besides all the cool air that you can breathe, there are also snacks and cold water.

The manager of 10-acre city facility knows that he has a captured audience of some of his community’s underserved residents. “We have Head Start, Social Services Program, GED preparation… a hundred ways to help someone,” said Vietnam veteran Patrick Jackson. He served on the U.S.S. Coral Sea helping run air support in the last years of the conflict.

The discipline and management skills that Jackson learned as an officer in the Navy show up in the corridors and the signs greeting those coming in for assistance. The lobby, welcome desk and hallways are spotless. A sign saying “No Sagging” is posted in several places. “If they come into my center looking for help, they can start by pulling up their pants,” Jackson said.

He might carry the hard stare and voice of a career commander, but Jackson’s heart is fully involved in helping out the poor in his adopted home of Dallas. “We can get them started in getting things better,” he said. “First, we just let them cool down.”

The two Dallas cooling centers are open Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. through September 30. Reliant Energy also sponsors ‘Beat the Heat’ cooling centers in other Texas cities including Houston and Corpus Christi.

The summer heat has started a little early this year in the metro area. This should come as no surprise when looking at the temperature trend over the last few years. Dallas is a hotter place to live these days. Since 1898, the official weather site for the DFW area has seen an average of 18 days of 100-degree heat each summer. Over the last five summers, DFW area residents have suffered almost twice that number. In fact, three of the last five summers in North Texas are in the top 10 hottest summers of all time.

So, if you want to know if this summer is going to be a hot one, a quick reading of recent trends would say yes. More heat and a growing population means more people needing a place to cool down.

There are more North Texas places to escape the heat this season. The Salvation Army Community Centers will operate more than a dozen cooling stations across our area all summer. They open on Monday.

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