Baltimore and much of Maryland are under a heat advisory for Thursday and an excessive heat watch for Friday.
The high temperature in Baltimore is expected to approach 99 degrees Thursday, with a heat index of around 107 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.
The heat index is a measure of what the temperature feels like to a person due to the combination of air temperature and relative humidity. According to the weather service, a heat index above 103 degrees is considered dangerous. Heat cramps or heat exhaustion are considered likely, and heat stroke is possible with prolonged exposure and/or prolonged physical activity.
Forecasts around the region for Thursday include heat indices of 105 degrees in Westminster, Elkton and Lexington Park and 104 degrees in Hagerstown.
Friday’s heat watch means heat indices could hit up to 110 degrees. The watch is in effect for parts of Maryland east of Washington County.
Baltimore City Acting Commissioner of Health Mary Beth Haller issued a Code Red Extreme Heat Alert for Thursday through Saturday, the city’s first of the season.
“Excessive heat is the leading weather-related killer in the United States. The fact that we’re located in an urban area makes things worse because of population density and the presence of heat-absorbent asphalt,” she said in a statement. “Extreme heat is dangerous to young children, older adults, and those with chronic medical conditions. Please protect yourselves and check in on your family, neighbors and pets.”
Earlier this month, Maryland officials announced the first heat-related death of the year, a 52-year-old man in Cecil County.
Heat-related deaths have been decreasing in Maryland each year since at least 2018, according to the weekly reports. During a period of extreme heat in 2022, the state saw five heat-related deaths. The year before that, 16 people died. And in 2018, 28 people died.
BGE on Wednesday said it was prepared for the high temperatures and shared tips for lowering energy use. A spokesman for BGE said the company would mobilize its storm center Thursday afternoon to coordinate extreme weather operations. BGE will increase its staffing around the clock for the duration of the heat event and will monitor the load on its systems.
When possible, BGE is reducing and canceling work that requires planned power outages and is prepared to bring on contract workers to support power outage restoration, the spokesman said in an email.
The high temperatures are the result of a dome of heat that’s been lingering in the southwestern United States and tracking eastward, said Andrew Snyder, a meteorologist at the Baltimore/Washington Office of the National Weather Service. Essentially, the jet stream’s path fluctuated a bit, which pushed an area of high atmospheric temperatures our way.
The sliver of good news, though, is that temperatures are expected to drop relatively quickly. Snyder said there should be a pretty big temperature difference between Saturday and Sunday because of a cold front forecast to move in. As of Wednesday afternoon, the high for Sunday in Baltimore is expected to be 85 degrees.
How to stay cool at home
There are some simple steps you can take to stay cool at home. First, pay attention to how you are feeling and monitor for the symptoms of heat exhaustion or heat stroke: confusion, nausea, lightheadedness; hot, flushed and dry skin; rapid or slow heart beat; and a high body temperature with cool and clammy skin. If you begin experiencing these symptoms, the Baltimore City Health Department says to seek medical help immediately.
Health officials recommend the following steps to stay cool and safe during periods of high heat:
- DO drink plenty of water
- DO stay inside as much as possible, especially between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- DO seek air-conditioned locations
- DO check in on sick or elderly neighbors
- DO make sure babies are sleeping safely
- DO limit outdoor activity as much as possible
- DO wear loose-fitting clothing when outdoors
- DO NOT drink alcohol or caffeine
- DO NOT spend too much time outdoors
- NEVER leave children or pets in a vehicle, even for short amounts of time
To keep your house cool, keep window shades and blinds closed. Running a ceiling fan counterclockwise pushes air downward and creates a cooling effect, but fans do not actually lower temperatures.
And while it’s tempting, it is not a good idea to crank your air conditioning to the coldest setting. It won’t make your house cooler any faster, and it could overwork your entire system, frying your AC when you need it most.
Instead, find a comfortable temperature — experts recommend the low- to mid-70s — and keep it set there, while finding other ways to cool off, like with ceiling fans.
Where to go if you need someplace to cool off
The Baltimore City Health Department, Mayor’s Office of Homeless Services and Enoch Pratt Free Library will have locations open Thursday and Friday for residents to seek shelter from the heat. All local branches of the Pratt Library will be open during regular hours and can be used as places to cool off. A spokeswoman for the Office of Homeless Services said its outreach team has already begun talking to unsheltered people in Baltimore about the high heat and resources for staying cool.
The Housing Authority of Baltimore City will also open Cherry Hill Homes as a cooling center. A full list of cooling centers in the city can be found here. In Baltimore, anyone who needs information about cooling centers can call 311.
The Department of Recreation and Parks is keeping park pools open for an extra hour on Thursday, and neighborhood pools will stay open for an additional hour from Thursday to Saturday.
In Howard County, people can seek shelter in county community centers, libraries or 50+ centers. Those in need of shelter or other assistance should call the hotline for Grassroots Crisis Intervention at 410-531-6677. More information for Howard County residents can be found here.
Baltimore County offers its senior centers, recreation centers and libraries as places to cool down, too. A list can be found here.
The City of Annapolis is activating its cooling centers for the first time this year. The Annapolis Michael E. Busch Library and the Annapolis Senior Activity Center will both be open to residents who need a place to cool off or get drinking water.
Is this a preview of the future?
Unfortunately, it could be. As we continue to burn fossil fuels and emit carbon dioxide into the air, the atmosphere will hold more heat energy. While that doesn’t mean every single day will be hotter, it does increase the odds that we’ll experience higher temperatures and other extreme weather events.
A recent study from the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science predicts that, by 2080, Baltimore’s climate will feel more like the Deep South, with temperatures that are on average 9.1 degrees higher than they are today.
Reporter Cadence Quaranta contributed to this article.