• Manteca’s cooling center is located at the Manteca Senior Center: 295 Cherry Lane. It will be open today from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and on Saturday from 8 a.m. to midnight. Ripon does not offer a cooling center.
Dry mouth. Fatigue. Dizziness. Confusion. And a sudden inability to cool the body with sweat.
When Ted Johnston, Ripon’s Director of Public Works, speaks about the dangers of dehydration and the Valley’s suffocating summer heat, he offers a cautionary tale.
His own, circa 2008.
“Whenever we have training, I give them a personal perspective of how fast it can get you,” said Johnston, who has worked for the City of Ripon for 35 years.
“We were out working in the heat and I had been taking a new medication, so I was a little dehydrated because of it. I wasn’t watching my water intake. (Heat exhaustion) can sneak up on you. … It can catch up to you quickly.”
On the eve of the Valley’s first heat wave, Johnston says temperatures in excess of 100 degrees won’t slow him or his staff, 96 percent of which will work directly in the summer sun.
Forecasts call for three consecutive days of 100 degrees or more beginning today, including a high of 108 degrees on Saturday, according to Accuweather’s latest revised report. On Wednesday, it called for a Saturday high of 111.
“When the heat starts getting up there like it will, we educate and remind employees about heat exhaustion and working in the heat,” Johnston said.
Every two weeks, Johnston gathers with his employees in the corporation yard for a safety meeting. This time of the year, heat preparedness is among the department’s main talking points.
“We remind them to watch out for the sun and to keep themselves hydrated by drinking water,” said Johnston, whose next safety meeting is June 11. “Those are things we watch for very carefully.”
Ripon city staff aren’t the only ones on high alert today and this weekend.
Mr. Pickles manager Michael Staat will be keeping close tabs on his sign wavers, who stand on the corner of the Commerce and Yosemite avenues in Manteca wearing a 10-pound costume.
The outfit is made of soft Styrofoam covered with a cloth material. There are breathing holes between the eyes made of mesh.
Mr. Pickles employs two sign wavers, who work opposite shifts. Each shift begins with two hours on the corner. Following a break, the sign waver finishes their shift with just under two hours of pointing, waving, dancing and …
Staat said his sign wavers are important for business. They help direct customers to the store, located on Hulsey Way, in a crowded complex opposite the In-N-Out.
However, their health and well being trump sandwiches sold.
“It is important to business, but ultimately our employees’ health is our main concern,” he added. “When it gets to be too hot, there’s no point in even being out there. We’ll tell them, ‘Why don’t you just come in and we’ll find you something for you to do in here.’ ”
Johnston’s staff has no choice but to keep his staff under the summer sun.
Public Works has 27 full-time employees and five part-timers. Together, they oversee the city’s park system, streets and waste management, as well as provide general maintenance, such as ditch digging and water pipe repairs.
Quite often, Johnston says, his employees work in the direct heat – with little shade or air-conditioning. Johnston said all but one – a janitor – have duties that require them to work primarily outdoors.
To combat heat exhaustion, the city supplies its employees with water and ice. For crews, Johnston says there are water jugs. If an employee begins to show signs of heat exhaustion or dehydration, Johnston said they receive immediate care and reprieve.
“It happens,” he added, “so we try to watch it closely.”
Public Works doesn’t have any employees scheduled for work this weekend. There are on-call employees, Johnston said, that will check well sites and park restrooms for cleanliness on Saturday morning.
Meanwhile, the Pickle is scheduled to perform through the weekend.
Staat offers the sign-waving talents sun block and a hydration pack to wear. He’ll monitor their health through the season’s first heat wave, watching closely for the tell-tale signs of dehydration – fatigue, confusion, a suddenly slow-moving Pickle.
“It’s going to get up there this weekend,” Staat said.