Escaping the heat in Northeast Mississippi

By Danza Johnson/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Russell McGee snacks on a big cup of ice like it’s movie popcorn as he rides around in his car without air conditioning.
James Bell doesn’t have air conditioning in his apartment, so he spends most of his day sitting under a shade tree in his yard drinking iced tea and water.
Instead of riding his bike with friends after school, John Riley stays inside and plays video games with them.
Over the past few weeks, the heat index has drifted near or past 100 degrees just about every day, causing some people to seek alternatives to beat the heat.
“It’s hot,” said McGee as he crunched his ice. “My AC went out in my car a month ago and I haven’t been able to get it fixed and it’s been tough. My dad used to say, ‘roll the windows down and get some of the good Lord’s air,’ but even he’s blowing hot air these days. At least I feel a little better from eating ice.”
Bell said there’s no such thing as a cool spot when the heat index is near 100.
“It’s 100 degrees in the shade,” said Bell, as he attempted to keep cool with a makeshift fan. “I don’t have an air conditioner because mine broke, so I sit outside to try to keep cool. It’s not cool outside, but it’s cooler than it is inside. I have to come up with a plan fast because the fan I have only blows out hot air, too.”
Because of the extreme temperatures, police are riding around passing out water, schools are making sure students stay hydrated and Lift Inc. is giving away air conditioners to individuals who don’t have one in their home.
Lift Executive Director Dorothy Leasy said the agency has given out more than 200 AC units to individuals who qualify for the Low Income Energy Program. Last year the agency gave out nearly 500 units during the summer months and Leasy said they are on pace to do the same this year.
“We know this is an extremely hot summer, so we try to make sure people are able to keep cool,” said Leasy. “We try to get the units to the people who are most vulnerable to heat, like the elderly, handicapped and people with small children. We try to make sure that people have at least one unit in their home.”
For those who don’t qualify for the Low Income Energy Program through Lift, there is the option of renting air-conditioning units.
Rent-to-own businesses like Dan’s Rent to Own on West Main Street and Bestway on Rabbit Drive rent units for a weekly rate. Diane Phillips with Dan’s Rent to Own said since the first week in July the business has rented about 40 air-conditioning units. They currently have all their units rented out.
“We bought 10 new units and they are also gone,” she said. “People have really been renting air conditioners since this heat wave started. We just can’t keep them in.”
More than books
The Lee County Library also has been a popular place to cool off for those with limited options, according to its director, Jan Willis.
Willis said computer usage reached an all-time high at the library during the month of July with almost 8,500 people using them.
“We have seen the library fill up every day because our building is one of the cooler ones around and it’s free,” Willis said. “It has been so hot that people who are outside need somewhere to go and the library has been that place.”
Contact Danza Johnson at (662) 678-1583 or

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