With a heat wave descending over much of the East Coast this week, Harford County is joining the rest of the Baltimore area in making cooling centers available a local library branches.
The county government announced Monday that all library branches will be open until 8 p.m. through Thursday, about three hours later than normal on some days.
All branches except two will open for the day at 1 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday, their normal times. The Bel Air branch will open at 11 a.m. those days, while the Darlington Branch will open at 3 p.m.
On Wednesday, all branches except Darlington will open at 10 a.m. Darlington will open at 3 a.m.
On Friday, all branches except Darlington will stay open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Darlington will be open from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
County Department of Emergency Services spokesman Bob Thomas said the heat index in the greater Baltimore area is expected to reach up to 105 degrees starting Tuesday.
As of Monday afternoon, the National Weather Service forecast calls for a high of 95 and heat index values up to 100 in Bel Air on Tuesday, a high of 94 on Wednesday and highs of 95 on Thursday and Friday.
The heat wave is expected to break sometime Friday or Saturday with a cold front and thunderstorms, according to the NWS.
Thomas noted the county "would rather err on the side of caution" when opening cooling centers.
The heat "presents health issues for a lot of people that don't have air-conditioning," he said.
He also advised "if people are going to be outside, whether it's work or recreational, to stay hydrated, avoid alcoholic beverages, try not to exert with heavy lifting."
Thomas said the county does not have a way of measuring exactly how people use the cooling centers specifically to cool off, as opposed to visiting the libraries to check out books or other materials, to do research of use the library computers. He did say library officials can count the number of people in the libraries in general.
For more information on heat health issues and preventive measures, visit the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Extreme Heat website at and the Harford County Health Department website at http://www.harfordcountyhealth.com or the Harford County Department of Emergency Services at http://www.harfordpublicsafety.org.