Maryland is preparing for potentially dangerous heat this weekend.

The Baltimore City Health Department has declared the summer’s first Code Red Extreme Heat alert and Gov. Wes Moore on Thursday directed officials to activate emergency preparedness plans and coordinate responses to the extreme heat with the state’s Department of Emergency Management.

Moore urged Marylanders and visitors to be hyperaware and prepare for the heat.

“Please remain vigilant, stay hydrated, and remain in cool locations as much as possible, and please check on vulnerable family members and friends,” Moore said in a statement.

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The most widespread “extreme” heat risks will be seen on Sunday, and there will be widespread “major” heat risk on Friday and Saturday, according to the forecast as of Friday morning.

The HeatRisk map considers multiple factors in assessing risk, including how unusual heat is for the time of year and the duration of daytime and nighttime temperatures.

The current forecast for Baltimore has the highest temperature reaching 99 degrees this Sunday, though the heat index could make it feel even hotter.

The average high temperature in the Baltimore region this time of year is closer to 85 degrees, according to Jeremy Geiger, a meteorologist at the Baltimore-Washington office of the National Weather Service.

The lowest temperatures are mid-70s during weekend nights, but according to the NWS it will “compound heat stress on those without air conditioning,” providing not much overnight relief.

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The most widespread risk in the Baltimore region is on Sunday, June 23, according to Friday forecast. Friday and Saturday also have widespread areas of heat risk. (Courtesy of the National Weather Service)

When there’s an “extreme” risk of heat-related impacts, the entire population is considered at risk. For those who can’t get access to cooling, the “level of heat can be deadly,” according to the weather service.

There is also a higher chance of power outages and poor air quality.

How to stay safe

The level and duration of heat expected this week is dangerous, but there are ways to stay safe.

Dr. Cliff Mitchell, director of the Environmental Health Bureau at the Maryland Department of Health, said last week staying safe in extreme heat is “100% about prevention.”

“None of it is rocket science. It’s all related to temperature and hydration,” he said.

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Ways to stay safe during an excessive heat event, according to the National Weather Service and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, include:

  • Slow down and reduce or eliminate strenuous activity, especially outdoors.
  • Wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing. Light-colored clothing better reflects heat and sunlight.
  • Minimize exposure to the sun.
  • Wear sunscreen — sunburn makes it harder for your body to cool down.
  • Stay hydrated and avoid alcoholic and caffeinated drinks.
  • Spend time indoors, especially in air conditioning.
  • Take a cool bath or shower.

Just a few hours in an air-conditioned environment can help your body adjust to temperatures, so even if your home does not have AC, you can find a public space to spend time in, like a library or shopping mall.

“Nobody should die from extreme heat,” said Benjamin Zaitchik, a professor in the department of Earth & Planetary Sciences at Johns Hopkins University. He added that “it’s not hard to save someone from extreme heat.”

Community networks can be especially important, Zaitchik said — like people checking on neighbors and making sure they have water.

Maryland has already recorded one heat-related death this year. The first recorded heat-related death in 2023 wasn’t until July.

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Resources for high heat events, including places to go to stay cool, can be found online:

You can also check the map below to find cooling centers in your area.

Protecting your pets in the heat

Just like people, pets are susceptible to high heat. The Humane Society of the United States has tips for keeping your four-legged friends safe and healthy, including:

  • Provide ample fresh water.
  • Limit exercise, and try to do it during cooler hours.
  • Never leave a pet inside a parked car, even for a minute with a window cracked.

Heatstroke is an emergency in pets, just like it is in humans. Signs of heatstroke in dogs include heavy panting, glazed eyes, excessive thirst, lethargy and a deep red or purple tongue.

If you suspect your dog is suffering from heat, take them into the shade or an air-conditioned area and let them drink small amounts of water. But heat stroke is an emergency, and you should immediately take your animal to a veterinarian.

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Keeping your garden alive

Plants are susceptible to the extreme heat, and periods of drought or high temperatures can be damaging, according to the University of Maryland Extension.

Plants may wilt on hot days because moisture is leaving the leaves faster than the roots can supply it. Adequate soil moisture can help the plants firm up in the evening.

Wilting for “short periods” doesn’t hurt plants, so there’s no need to panic.

It’s best to water in the morning, before the heat of the day, to give plants time to absorb moisture, according to experts. You should also water plants deeply, about 6 inches down, to make them adequately hydrated.

Wilting, while a sign of distress in plants, is also the best indicator they need a drink. Plants that are in hanging baskets or other containers will need more water than those planted in the ground.