Thursday was hot, but Friday will be a scorcher. Baltimore is under a heat advisory until Saturday, with temperatures likely to hit 100 degrees and the heat index — how hot it feels — climbing as high as 110 on Friday.
According to the National Weather Service, heat indices above 103 degrees are considered dangerous and can cause heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke from prolonged physical activity or exposure to heat.
For Baltimoreans who lack a permanent home, the heat is especially risky. Nora Aldabbagh has lived in a tent outside My Sister’s Place Women’s Center for a little over a year and said it’s hard to find bathrooms and places to cool off.
“I’ll just be going to the library and reading until they close over there because it’s just so hot,” she said. “I’m in a no family, no friends, homeless place.”
My Sister’s Place is among the city’s designated cooling centers for days where the health commissioner issues a Code Red Extreme Health Alert.
The women’s center also serves as a place where women can eat three meals, take showers, receive mail and get advice. Cheyenne Spedden, a program assistant at the center, said that even with temperatures that hit 99 degrees, attendance was lower than a normal Thursday.
“Not even 30 people came today,” she said.
Thursday was the first time this season the city issued an extreme heat alert, prompting agencies to provide options to stay cool, like extending pool hours and sharing tips to reduce energy costs.
For Brianna Street and Deaje Taylor, two waitresses at The Cheesecake Factory in the Inner Harbor who were sitting on the curb outside the restaurant Thursday morning, the game plan is to lay low, hit the pool and drink lots of water.
“The AC is on, but it’s not pumping out good,” Taylor said. “Our job is so hot, a customer had a seizure last week due to the heat.”
The health risks are already a concern for Street, who said her sister has severe asthma. “It’s a concern for me to think about my family,” Street said. “But with the heat, there’s not much we can really do.”
Heat related illness can be dangerous, according to Joanna Cohen, a pediatric emergency medicine physician at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.
“The worst case scenario is heat stroke,” Cohen said. “You want to be wary of heat exhaustion.”
She added that some warning signs of heat-related illness includes a lot of sweating, fast and rapid pulse, vomiting, dizziness, headaches and passing out, and that any of these symptoms indicate a need to visit a hospital.
Earlier this month, Maryland officials announced the first heat-related death of the year, a 52-year-old man in Cecil County.