Lexington officials instituted a ban Wednesday on open outdoor burning, and they said they would open a downtown cooling center and slash swimming pool admission prices as temperatures soar toward 100 during the next few days.
The National Weather Service in Louisville said the temperature in Lexington would reach 98 on Thursday and Friday and could hit 100 on Saturday, then go back to 98 on Sunday and Monday. The high is expected to be about 95 on Tuesday, forecasters said.
According to the weather service, the temperature in Lexington hasn't reached triple digits since Aug. 16, 2007, when it climbed to 102 degrees.
Because of the high temperatures, the Division of Fire and Emergency Services issued a notice saying all outdoor burning would be prohibited in Fayette County until Lexington gets some significant rainfall. Officials said the ban was needed because extreme dry conditions across the area create fire dangers.
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Lexington officials said Wednesday that fireworks were not covered by the burning ban, but that decision will be evaluated daily, and fireworks could be included in the ban at some point.
More than 30 other counties and towns in Kentucky had instituted similar bans on outdoor burning as of Wednesday afternoon, according to the state Division of Forestry.
The National Weather Service said fire conditions would be particularly dangerous Thursday afternoon, with winds of 10 to 15 mph. Forecasts for Thursday included 101 degrees in Frankfort and 103 in Louisville.
With such dangerously hot weather on the way, the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department urged residents to take precautions, including drinking plenty of fluids, wearing sunscreen and limiting outdoor activities to the cooler parts of the day.
Meanwhile, Mayor Jim Gray's office said Wednesday that residents who lack air conditioning may go to a cooling center at Dunbar Community Center, 545 North Upper Street. It will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday through Monday, said Jerry Hancock, director of the Division of Parks and Recreation.
Lexington residents who need a ride to the cooling center may use LexTran buses for free, transit authority spokeswoman Jill Barnett said.
Officials said people going to the cooling center should take blankets, pillows and bottled water.
To make it easier for those who really want to cool off, Lexington's swimming pools and aquatic centers will slash admission prices in half through Monday, according to Hancock.
Admission to aquatic centers will be $2 for ages 15 and younger and $2.50 for ages 16 and older, officials said.
Admission at Lexington's regular pools will be $1.50 for those 15 and younger, $2 for those 16 and older.
Health officials said Lexingtonians who aren't going to a pool or cooling center should stay inside, in air-conditioned spaces if possible. If your home is not air-conditioned, go to a shopping mall or nearest public library to cool off.
Those who must go outside should plan their activities for before noon or in the evening, health department officials said.
Officials said people should take care to monitor young children and adults older than 65 for signs of heat problems.
Signs of heat-related illness include a body temperature of more than 103 degrees; red, hot and dry skin; rapid pulse; headache; dizziness, and nausea.
Never leave anyone in a closed, parked vehicle, health officials said.