Chilled water bottles were in high demand Monday morning at the Northern Community Action Partnership Center.
The building on York Road was doubling as a cooling center for neighbors seeking a reprieve from Monday’s oppressive heat. While most people there were clients waiting to see caseworkers about housing, energy assistance and other needs, others visited strictly to keep cool.
By 11:30 a.m., the center had handed out at least 100 water bottles, said its manager, Fernando Moore. And the day was only getting hotter.
The heat index surged toward 110 degrees Monday afternoon in Baltimore as the sun baked the Northeast. The National Weather Service issued an “excessive heat warning” Monday with the possibility of “dangerously high temperatures and humidity” for Baltimore and southern Baltimore County into the evening. A heat advisory was in effect across Central Maryland for Tuesday, too.
Temperatures reached at least 98 degrees at BWI-Thurgood Marshall Airport on Monday, where the uncomfortably high humidity made it feel like 109 degrees. At the Inner Harbor, humidity was still more intense, with temperatures of at least 97 degrees and a heat index up to 111 degrees.
Baltimore Health Commissioner Dr. Leana S. Wen issued the city’s first “Code Red” heat advisory of the season for Sunday and extended it through Tuesday. The alert led the city to open cooling centers at four Community Action Partnership Centers and several senior centers. The centers are open on Code Red days from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. during the week, and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends.
“If anyone is in the area and wants to stop in, they can,” said Ebony Wilder, a spokeswoman for the Mayor’s Office of Human Services.
Wen encouraged residents to protect against hyperthermia and dehydration by limiting outdoor activity, drinking plenty of clear, non-alcoholic liquids, and keeping a close eye on children and the elderly, who are most vulnerable to heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses.
“This is a chance for us to all watch out for those who are most vulnerable,” Wen said.
Chronic illnesses can also be worsened by extreme heat.
Bernard Williams, 49, visited the Northern Community Action Partnership Center in Baltimore’s Woodbourne McCabe neighborhood to cool off twice on Monday. He said he has asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and the heat exacerbates those conditions.
“The heat — it’s like, it sucks my breath,” Williams said.
He sipped on his second bottle of water at the York Road cooling center. He said air-conditioned rooms offered a welcome respite from the heat outside.
“Five minutes of coolness can make all the difference in the world,” he said.
The center was busy with clients seeking services, including workshops on financial literacy, energy assistance grants and food resources.
The cooling center is “a nice way to get people to come into the center,” Moore said. “On the back end, we’re able to say, ‘Hey, these are the services we offer.’ ”
In Southeast Baltimore, at least five families visited the Community Action Partnership Center on Bank Street to cool off, manager Adongo Matthews said.
“We have a client who comes in all throughout Code Red season,” she said.
A “Code Orange” air quality alert was in effect for Baltimore and Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Howard, Harford and Carroll counties. That indicates conditions could be difficult for sensitive groups, including the elderly, children and those with heart or lung conditions. Heat, sunshine and wind speeds can exacerbate air pollution.
A large area of high pressure just off the coast is allowing a flow of hot, humid air from the south to move into the continental United States. It pushed the heat index toward 110 degrees across the nation’s midsection, from Arkansas to Minnesota to Michigan, late last week. On Monday, heat warnings stretched from North Carolina to Maine.
High temperatures caused the closure of Lexington Market on Monday for emergency repairs to its cooling system, according to the market’s website.
One person has died of heat-related illness in Maryland this year. Up to a dozen such deaths are typical each summer. There were 46 in the hot summer of 2012.
Wen urged residents not to leave children or animals unattended in cars for any period of time in the heat.
“Every year there are many animals that die and we even have children that have died because of this,” she said.