Air conditioners are a hot commodity in Nashville as summer heat bears down

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — After June temperatures started reaching into the high 90s Fahrenheit, Alexandra Mistekevic's two-bedroom apartment in Nashville, Tennessee, became so sweltering that the air conditioning unit was only able to cool the shared living and kitchen areas.

Her 8-year-old son couldn't even sleep or play in his bedroom, it was so hot.

“My oldest one wants to go in his room, and he can’t because I’m afraid he’s going to get overheated,” the mother of two said.

This week Nashville and Memphis were under heat advisories as temperatures reached into the high 90s and the heat index in both cities got above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8 Celsius) on Tuesday. Cooling centers were opened in both cities, while Nashville’s Office of Homeless Services and other community service organizations performed heat checks and offered rides to shelters and cooling centers.

Mistekevic found relief through Nashville's Metropolitan Action Commission, which offers free window AC units to seniors, families with young children and people with medical conditions that are affected by the heat.

On Tuesday, when the daily temperature topped out at 98 degrees F (36.7 C), Mistekevic filled out an application and later the same day was able to pick up a 8,000 BTU window unit for her oldest son's bedroom.

Now she can rest better knowing he's got a place to sleep and play with his toys, especially as the summer was just beginning to kick into high temperatures.

“I’ve sweated more this summer than I would say any summer before,” said Mistekevic. “Like this summer, I feel like its going to be really, really bad.”

Temperatures in Nashville and Memphis are expected to rise again on Friday into the mid to upper 90s, with more high heat days in the forecast for the following week.

Marvin Cox, the community outreach director who handles the air conditioner program, said the AC units lining the shelves in his office are a hot commodity this time of year. They gave away more than 200 units last summer and this summer have been sending them out as soon as they get new units because time is essential to preventing heat-related illnesses.

Cox said he's been hearing from people that apply that their whole-house AC units are failing to keep up against the ongoing back-to-back days of high temperatures and humidity.

“We know it’s been very hot, 96, 97 degrees temperature here in Nashville. Probably one of the hottest Junes I feel like I’ve been a part of,” Cox said.

Last year the U.S. experienced the most heat waves since 1936, experts said. An AP analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that excessive heat contributed to more than 2,300 deaths, the highest in 45 years of records.

The program doesn't get grants, so the AC units are typically purchased by the agency or they rely on donations of new AC units or monetary donations.

“We just want to be a blessing to families, especially seniors, families with young children,” Cox said. “We know it gets hot. Their physical well-being is very important to us. So we want to make sure we can serve as many families as we can.”