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AC units scarce this week in Willmar, Minn., after days of soaring temps

Shoppers seeking an air conditioner this week were often met with empty shelves like this one Thursday at Willmar's Runnings store. Two shipments sold out in days. (Tribune photo by Ron Adams)

WILLMAR -- As temperatures climbed well into the 90s this week with heat indexes over 100, people flocked to the stores to buy air conditioning units.

By the end of the week, they were becoming increasingly hard to find in the Willmar area.

As of Friday, Cullen's Home Center in Willmar still had a handful of portable air conditioners left and about a half-dozen window units available. Rick Dahle, owner of Cullen's, estimated that the store sold around 90 units this week.

"We're down to just a few yet, but we do have them," Dahle said. "That's one of the advantages of being a locally owned business -- we can react and buy quickly. We're able to replenish in smaller quantities as needed."

Dahle said the next shipment of air conditioners will come in Tuesday. Though he expected to be out of air conditioners by then, he said the milder temperatures expected for the weekend should keep the demand down.

"If the weather drops to 82 or 84, it will take the pressure off," Dahle said.

Elsewhere in town, other stores struggled to keep air conditioners on the shelves this week.

"We completely sold out on Wednesday," said Mike Witt, manager at Runnings Farm & Fleet, on Thursday. "This is fairly extreme. Normally when it gets hot out like this, we still don't run out."

In the last week and a half, Runnings had two shipments of air conditioners come in, Witt said. Both shipments sold out in days.

Witt said he's not sure when the next shipment will come in. Because most of the country is also experiencing extreme heat, Witt said the store's buyers might have trouble getting more units.

Target and Home Depot in Willmar were also out of air conditioning units as of Friday afternoon. Walmart had a few window units on shelves, and Menards had one portable air conditioner left.

In extreme heat, it is recommended to stay in an air-conditioned place, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When the temps reach the high 90s, fans will not help prevent heat-related illnesses.

Those without air conditioning should seek relief in a mall, library or other public place, the CDC suggests. Even a few hours spent in air conditioning will help the body stay cooler when back in the heat.

Ashley White

Ashley White is the community content coordinator for the West Central Tribune. Follow her on Twitter @Ashley_WCT.

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