Mercury eclipsing 90. Heat index adding about 10 more degrees. Thunderstorms dry up almost as soon as they reach the pavement. Welcome to the dog days of summer. Now, where do you go to escape the searing heat?

Sunrise in Belmar (Bud McCormick)

For starters, well, hello, ocean! Practically all Ocean County ocean, bay, lake, river and creek swim spots are open, according to the Ocean County Health Department, based on testing so far this week for enterococcus and fecal coliform bacteria. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection lists no beach closures at all in Monmouth.

Ocean County's only spots where swimming is off-limits are Harry Wright Lake in Manchester and the Ocean County Park lake in Lakewood. A swim advisory is in effect at Waretown Lake in Ocean Township.

The velocity and volume of whatever rain we get will determine whether storm water runoff raises bacteria levels at any beaches. We'll keep an eye on it.

Naturally, if your house is air conditioned, you're all set. Jersey Central Power and Light and Atlantic City Electric, so far, reports no strain on the juice to power all that hardware. However, if the lights (and the AC) go out, there are still options.

How about a stroll through a shopping center?. Or you might treat yourself to a movie or a leisurely restaurant meal. Savvy business owners have backup systems when power drains ensue.

Then, too, there are the Ocean County Library branches, in Barnegat, Beachwood, Berkeley Township, Brick, Island Heights, Jackson, Lacey, Lakewood, Lavallette, Little Egg Harbor, Manchester, Plumsted, Point Pleasant, Point Beach, Stafford, Surf City, Tuckerton, and reading centers in Bay Head and Whiting.

The Monmouth County Library has its headquarters in Manalapan and its eastern branch in Shrewsbury,, with additional branches in Allentown, Atlantic Highalnds, Colts Neck, Hazlet, Holmdel, Howell, Marlboro, Township of Ocean, Oceanport, Wall and West Long Branch.

The Red Bank Public Library also maintains a broad palette of diversions for kids and adults. In Neptune, officials have designated the Public Library and Senior Center as cooling centers.

Who knows - you might end up learning a craft, attending a free seminar, joining a reading group or seeing great artwork.

Additionally, if a power outage occurs in Berkeley Township, Mayor Carmen Amato says that Town Hall, the Recreation Center, and Holiday City Berkeley Clubhouse Two can offer some relief.

Limit your outdoor activity, keep drinking water handy, and keep an eye on infants, toddlers, and folks in advanced age.

What's your favorite way to find the  big chill? Let us know, and we'll add your ideas!

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