Bloodsicles — blood-infused ice pops — are on the beat-the-heat menu Friday and Saturday for the big cats at the Akron Zoo.
With temperatures crawling into the 90s, and feeling as sizzling hot as 108 degrees, animals and people are looking for ways to stay cool Friday and Saturday.
At the Akron Zoo, lions, jaguars and snow leopards are particularly fond of the red-tinged ice made by the zoo's animal caretakers, said zoo spokeswoman Elena Bell.
Meanwhile, the city of Akron has extended hours at several community centers where people can cool off. The following locations will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
• Lawton Street Community Center, 1225 Lawton St.
• Mason Park Community Center, 700 E. Exchange St.
• Patterson Park Community Center, 800 Patterson Ave.
• Summit Lake Community Center, 380 W. Crosier St.
The Salvation Army of Summit County is also offering two cooling options Friday.
The Akron Citadel, 190 S. Maple St., will be open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Barberton Corps, 560 Wooster Road West, will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
In Medina, the Medina Community Recreation Center, 855 Weymouth Road, is opening its Community Room A as a cooling center from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Mayor Dennis Hanwell said.
Nonmembers won't be able to access the rest of the facility, but will be able to use restrooms and a drinking fountain.
The National Weather Service on Friday morning updated an excessive heat watch to a warning for northern Ohio. An excessive heat warning is issued when there is a prolonged period of dangerously hot weather.
The warning will remain in effect from noon Friday to 8 p.m. Saturday, with heat index values — which take into account both temperature and humidity — expected to be up to 108.
The temperatures are predicted to be in the lower to mid 90s with dewpoints in the mid 70s.
The warning covers northern Ohio, including the Akron area.
"The heat and humidity may cause heat stress during outdoor exertion or extended exposure," the National Weather Service said.
The agency advised people who work or spend time outside to take extra precautions and to recognize the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
It also recommended that people wear light weight and loose fitting clothing and to drink plenty of water.
The federal agency also warned that vehicle interiors can reach lethal temperatures within minutes and urged people to never leave pets, children or the elderly unattended in parked vehicles.
At the zoo, some animals have developed behaviors to help cool themselves. Vultures, for example, urinate on their legs "to take advantage of evaporative cooling," a zoo handout said. The white residue left behind on a bird's legs also reflects the sun's heat, to help keep them even cooler.
But for creatures with fewer options, zoo caretakers are setting up misting tents to help them stay cool and making other, blood-free ice blocks animals can lick, lay on or linger over in the shade.
If they're still too hot, Bell said, animals are always free to seek out shade or air conditioning in their burrows on private zoo quarters whenever they like.
Zoo visitors this year also have a new chance to cool off, Bell said.
There are two permanent misting towers in the Pride of Africa area that opened this summer. The towers spray guests with a heavy mist when they push a button.
Bell said the misters must be super-powered, because she's seen kids happily soaked there this summer.
Those trying to stay cool in their homes face their own challenges.
The city of Cuyahoga Falls on Thursday also urged its electric customers to reduce usage between 2 and 6 p.m. during the brutal heat wave.
"A portion of the city of Cuyahoga Falls rates are the result of transmission and capacity charges, which are based off community-wide electric demand on the hottest days of the year — demand peaks," the city wrote on its Facebook page. "By lowering electric usage on these days, customers can help keep electric rates lower in the future."
Some power companies in other areas of the country have warned of potential power outages because of high demand.
But Akron-based FirstEnergy said this week it's prepared.
"From western Ohio to the New Jersey shore, our electric system is designed and maintained to operate effectively even in extreme weather conditions." Steven E. Strah, senior vice president of FirstEnergy said in a statement.
The National Weather Service says there is some relief on the way. The high temperature is expected to be 89 on Sunday with showers and thunderstorms likely both during the day and at night. The overnight temperature is predicted to dip to 66 degrees.
The high temperature Monday will be about 80 degrees with an overnight temperature of 59 degree.