CLARKSVILLE, IN (August 23, 2021) – Today is just like any other average Summer day in Clarksville, with temperatures reaching into the upper 90’s, and a heat index of over 110 degrees. An uncomfortable heat that can also be extremely dangerous.
“Extreme is one of the deadliest weather hazards in the US,” said Clarksville Heat Relief Coordinator Bronte Murrell.
In fact, extreme accounts for more annual deaths than hurricanes, tornadoes or flooding in the United States. With this in mind, the Town of Clarksville is working on a plan to help keep residents safe from the heat. Clarksville was one of several communities chosen to receive a heat study grant from Indiana University and the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs. The program is called “Beat the Heat”, and it is led by Murrell. Clarksville is also one of 18 US communities that are creating heat maps this summer as part of NOAA’s Urban Heat Island Mapping Cohort.
“The program has five phases, we are in phase two,” said Murrell. “In phase two our goal here is to understand what the community needs and how the community is currently being affected by extreme heat.”
Part of phase two is building a heat map showing the hottest locations within the Town of Clarksville. To accomplish this, the Town teamed up with Clarksville students as well as community volunteers, to conduct a heat watch survey. On Monday, volunteers with bikes and vehicles outfitted with special heat measuring equipment, set out across town to gather data.
“This map is really going to be foundational for some of the work we are doing,” said Murrell. “It is going to help us identify some of the hottest places in town and some of the cool places in town so we can really develop strategies to help keep residents safe and cool for years to come.”
Developing those strategies to protect Clarksville residents will not just come from the Town government. Part of the partnership with Clarksville Community Schools means students will be able to get involved and have an impact on their community.
“So this is going to be an opportunity for us once the heat map is created, to take it into the classroom with them and really explore and look into it, and possibly then develop some strategies to make improvements to the tree canopies with those students.”
Aaliyah Taylor, a student at Clarksville’s Renaissance Academy, say she thought getting involved would be a unique opportunity.
“Why not? I mean, it’s something fun to do, get you out of the house so you’re not watching Netflix all day. Its fun,” said Taylor. “It’s definitely different cause you don’t really do this every day. Its not something you normally think about.”
That’s not the case for Clarksville Planning Director Jacob Arbital. He says his department has been wanting to study the extreme heat for a while, but with so many projects currently in the works, it is hard to find the time or resources.
“So when we saw there was a grant opportunity through IU and the office of community and rural affairs, it was a really cool opportunity for us to focus on one of these issues that we’ve known we need to look at, without having to really invest any of the town money,” said Arbital. “We could do it through a grant program. So it was a really cool opportunity to work on a project that we probably otherwise wouldn’t be able to work on”
The next phases of the “Beat the Heat” campaign will mean getting the public even more involved with community surveys and focus groups. Arbital says he hopes the Clarksville Community will support the program and participate, so it results in positive change for our community.
“We can come up with the greatest plans in the world, but if we can’t get the community to buy into it, for our elected officials to buy into it, then its really not going to go anywhere,” said Arbital. “Its going to be a nice document that sits on the shelf”
With the help of volunteers and students like Aaliyah Taylor, you can bet change is on the way.