Frozen towels, plenty of popsicles, and getting out of bed before the sun rises are just a few of the ways local businesses and employees have been dealing with the dry conditions and extreme temperatures over the past two weeks.

Cooks at Diner 19 in Vankleek Hill had one of the more innovative methods to deal with the temperatures in the restaurant’s kitchen – wrapping frozen towels around their necks as personal air conditioners.

“It sounds silly, but we take damp towels and we put them in the freezer, then we wrap them around our necks to keep cool – it’s the only thing that seems to work,” said Diner 19 owner Stacy Sauve, whose kitchen staff can also access the air-conditioned seating portion of the restaurant to cool down. “But when it’s busy, we can’t quit making orders, so the waitresses bring us water about every three minutes and say ‘drink, drink’, otherwise we don’t realize we’re getting dehydrated because we’re so busy.”

Sauvé said the diner was forced to close its outdoor seating area from 1 to 4 pm each day during the past week, as it was just too hot outside for both employees and customers. After 4 p.m. however, the restaurant was very busy with take-out and delivery orders for customers who were not interested in hovering over a hot stove or barbecue at home.

One trick to beat the heat while working is to get as early a start as possible said Jaime Williams, whose business Blues Gardening provides plant-care services for private residences and companies in the region. The Hawkesbury resident has been on the job at the crack of dawn recently to try to get all her work done before the heat of the afternoon.

“The key is to get a very, very early start in the morning – I’m up at 4 a.m. and out the door by 5,” said Williams, who added watering plants for a living has some benefits. “ I’ll also run the hose down the back of my neck and extremities – wrists, hands – to keep cool.”

Manufacturing facilities in the region have been taking steps to ensure employees working in non-air-conditioned areas are able to stay as cool as possible. Additional break times, water, and access to cool spaces  are needed to ensure workers do not become overheated and/or dehydrated.

“The production staff are recommended to take frequent breaks in the office space and break area – spaces where they can get refuge from the heat in the air conditioning,” said Stefanie Tolhurst of Beau’s Brewery. “Obviously we also always have a good stock of popsicles, ice cream and water to keep everyone hydrated and cool as well.”

While Beau’s already had implemented programs in place to deal with heat stress, 2020 has provided additional challenges because doors which would normally be open for ventilation in the summer have to remain closed in order to restrict access to the plant due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To compensate, Beau’s recently purchased and installed multiple pedestal and industrial-sized fans throughout the facility to provide increased airflow.

Fans are also used by area dairy farmers to keep their cows as cool as possible during hot weather and while the heat is hard on the animals, they are able to adapt as long as they receive proper care.

“Two years ago we installed extra fans in our barns, so although the cows are hot, they’re doing just fine,” said Linda Overvest of Overdale Farms, noting there are few opportunities to take a break in the dairy farming industry. “It does have to stay business as usual even with the heat – it doesn’t matter, the cows still need you to get in there and do your thing,”

Interviewed during Friday, July 10th’s record-breaking temperatures, Overvest said the drought caused by the heat wave has been very hard on crops as well: “I’m really looking forward to tomorrow’s rain.”

Over at the Windsor Tavern – where staff have been working outdoors to serve customers – owner Mike St. Denis said the event tent recently installed in the establishment’s parking lot has proved absolutely essential over the past two weeks.

“Thank God we have the tent or we’d probably have heat stroke,” St. Denis joked, adding staff are staying hydrated by drinking lots of water with lemon slices in it, while customers have their own method of staying cool. “The beer’s always cold.”

Relief from the temperatures arrived on the weekend with steady rains on Saturday and more precipitation expected for Sunday. Temperatures this week are forecast to return to normal and hover in the mid-20s, with some thunderstorms and showers anticipated over the next several days.

Diner 19 owner Stacy Sauvé beats the heat in his restaurant’s kitchen by wearing a frozen damp towel around his neck to stay cool.