Virginia Tech researchers look at ways to address extreme heat in urban parts of Roanoke

Research shows areas experiencing higher temperatures are already considered socially vulnerable

ROANOKE, Va. – Virginia Tech researchers are looking at ways to address extreme heat in the urban areas of Roanoke.

One connection researchers have found is a link between areas that have higher temperatures experience more gun violence.

Researchers like Dr. Theodore Lim with Virginia Tech said temperatures can vary in Roanoke.

“With global climate change temperatures are rising,” said Dr. Lim.

These higher temperatures disproportionately effects neighborhoods of lower socio-economic status.

Dr. Lim has partnered with Carilion staff, like Dr. Will Taber who is an emergency medicine resident, to educate people about the lesser known dangers of heat.

“Heat affects us in ways we never really understand,” said Dr. Taber. “It can affect the way we live, the way we take our medications, and the way we do activities but also violent crime, suicide rates, depression, things that we wouldn’t normally immediately consider.”

With this information, the City of Roanoke’s Sustainability Office is developing a plan for both short-term and long-term mitigation efforts.

“Trees are one of the easiest and least costly adaptations that we can do but there are also man-made shade structures that we can put in parks. And really the idea is to find the right resources and solutions for each community and neighborhood because it’s not one size fits all,” said Sustainability and Outreach Coordinator Leigh Anne Weitzenfeld.

Next steps will include improving neighborhoods to suffer the extreme heat.

Some actions already taking place are planting more trees, building more playgrounds and picnic shelters, and creating plans to offer cooling centers at more accessible locations across the city.

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