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City, counties offer cooling centers and tips to beat the heat wave

Weather service predicts heat index of 105; high temps expected all week

By Carrie Wells, The Baltimore Sun

6:27 PM EDT, July 15, 2013

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The National Weather Service says it will feel like 105 degrees in some areas around Baltimore Tuesday, and several health departments throughout the region issued advisories about a heat wave that's expected to last all week.

The weather service said a heat advisory will be in effect from noon to 7 p.m. Tuesday, with temperatures in the upper 90s in and around Baltimore. Factoring for humidity, the temperatures will feel as high as 105.

With the high temperatures expected to last all week, jurisdictions are opening cooling centers and urging caution.

Baltimore Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot declared a Code Red heat alert Tuesday through Friday, and the department will open 11 cooling centers with air conditioning and free water throughout the city during that time. City cooling centers are at the Northern, Southern, Northwest, Southeastern and Eastern community action centers, and at the Waxter, Oliver, Sandtown, Hatton, John Booth and Zeta senior centers.

Baltimore residents can call 311 for more information on cooling centers. A map of the centers can be found here.

Barbot repeated warnings that heat-related deaths are "highly preventable." Thirteen people died of heat-related illness in Baltimore last year, officials said.

In Howard and Baltimore counties, health department officials urged residents who need to cool off to visit senior centers or library branches.

Carroll County will operate six cooling centers all week during the day — at the Citizen Services Office in Westminster and all five county senior centers. Officials in Carroll, as well as in Harford County, said county libraries are options for people needing to cool off.

Annapolis will open a cooling center in the Pip Moyer Recreation Center, 273 Hilltop Lane, from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Tuesday, said city spokeswoman Rhonda Wardlaw.The decision on whether to open the center on subsequent days will be made on a day-to-day basis, Wardlaw said.

Anne Arundel County hasn't opened any cooling centers, but emergency officials are monitoring the weather closely, said Tracie Reynolds, a spokeswoman for the county.

Dr. David Rose, Anne Arundel's deputy health officer, said one misconception people have about the heat is that a fan will keep you cool. But a fan isn't enough when the temperature soars well into the 90s.

"Unfortunately, it will not prevent these heat-related illnesses," Rose said. "You need air conditioning."

To help beat the heat, health officials suggest people wear light-colored, lightweight, loose-fitting clothing, a hat and sunscreen; increase fluid intake; drink nonalcoholic and caffeine-free liquids; and stay out of the sun from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., if possible.

Officials also warned against leaving children or pets unattended in cars, and suggested that people check on elderly friends, family and neighbors who live alone.

Residents should call 911 if they encounter heat-related emergencies, and should be aware of the symptoms of heat-related illness, including extreme weakness, muscle cramps, nausea, headache, possible vomiting or fainting, dry red skin, convulsions, disorientation, delirium or coma.

Baltimore Sun Media Group reporters Pamela Wood, Alison Knezevich, Sara Toth and Blair Ames contributed to this article.

cwells@baltsun.com