As temperatures flirted with triple digits again Tuesday, relief agencies started warning vulnerable elderly clients about summer's early arrival.
Seniors, who often have medical problems and resist using air conditioners because they live on fixed incomes, are at particular risk of heat-related emergencies.
Advocates hope that their efforts are paying off -- there have been only seven heat-related deaths in Tarrant County since 2008, according to the Tarrant County medical examiner.
"We're letting our clients know that if they need a box fan or window [air conditioner] unit, all they have to do is tell us," said Denise Harris, spokeswoman with Meals on Wheels Tarrant County. "We don't want anyone to suffer in this heat."
On Tuesday, when the high was 97 degrees, Meals on Wheels volunteers joined TXU Energy officials in delivering 4,600 LED flashlights, hot weather safety tips and information on keeping energy bills down.
Reliant Energy teamed with Dallas health officials to offer similar advice.
Among the clients Meals on Wheels visited Tuesday was Margaret, 91, who lives in south Fort Worth. Meals on Wheels does not allow clients' full names to be published because they are considered vulnerable.
Margaret said she only goes outside before 9 a.m., wears loose clothing and has left her thermostat set at 76. She said she worries about paying her electric bill, though.
"I'm praying I'll be able to afford it each month," she said. "Heavens, it gets expensive."
Lacy Lee Sperry, a TXU community relations manager, said the Energy Department recommends setting thermostats at 78. Every degree lower can raise the air conditioning portion of an electric bill 7 to 10 percent. A fan can make a room feel four degrees cooler, she added.
In Grapevine, officials with the city's senior center cut short a planned walk for seniors Tuesday along an outdoor trail. Seniors can take a bus to the city's community activities center so they can walk indoors, said Dianne Hall, a recreation specialist.
Twice a week, a nurse will check seniors' blood pressure and other vital signs, she said.
"Summer is here early this year," Hall said. "We'll be keeping a close eye on everyone."
Alex Branch, 817-390-7689