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High temperatures trigger need for cooling centers, result in second death

Large puffy clouds drift through the sky as cooler temperatures prevail Thursday afternoon, when a crew works high up on a cell tower in Forest Hill.
Large puffy clouds drift through the sky as cooler temperatures prevail Thursday afternoon, when a crew works high up on a cell tower in Forest Hill. (PHOTO BY MATT BUTTON | AEGIS STAFF)

After a week of cooler temperatures, the hot weather is back in Harford County, prompting medical calls and the opening of cooling centers.

Since Sunday, local emergency services personnel responded to four heat-related illness calls, according to Rick Ayers, of the Emergency Operations Center.

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In addition, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is reporting a second heat-related death in the county, a man between 45 and 64 years old.

Harford County Health Department spokesperson Bill Wiseman confirmed Thursday the man was 64 years old and had a history of underlying medical problems, including asthma and heart disease.

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This follows a nearly two-week heat wave that resulted in one heat-related death in the county and 13 medical calls.

With the two deaths, Wiseman emphasized that excessive heat conditions be taken seriously especially for the young and elderly and people taking medications or with chronic illnesses.

For further information on heat illnesses, Wiseman directed people to the health department website, http://www.harfordcountyhealth.com under the "H" section.

In anticipation of temperatures reaching 105 degrees Wednesday, the Harford County government again designated public libraries as cooling centers.

Another break in the heat is expected, with the National Weather Service predicting temperatures in the low 80s for the upcoming weekend.

Coupled with the high temperatures earlier in the week, the county is also experiencing a dry spell. As of June 30, Harford has been in a Maryland Department of Environment "drought watch" status, according to Jacqueline Ludwig, of the county division of water and sewer.

"In particular to Harford County, the streams and creeks are mostly below average and continuing to fall," she wrote in an e-mail.

Even with the drought-like conditions, the county is prepared and does not use those streams for water supply, according to Ludwig. Instead, the county's main source of water is from the Baltimore reservoir system and the Susquehanna River, she added.

The county also has three water treatments and sources in operation to meet "anticipated summer demands," Ludwig wrote.

Other locations in the county are not as fortunate, including Aberdeen Proving Ground's Edgewood area. On July 8, the federal government asked the county to start supplying the Edgewood Area with water because of low stream flow, Ludwig said.

She expects APG to remain on the county system into the fall when the streams start to replenish.

Maryland American Water Company, which serves the town of Bel Air, and the City of Aberdeen, its watching its water sources, but has not contacted the county, according to Ludwig.

If the dry spell persists, Ludwig added that a request for back-up water from Maryland American Water is likely.

No water restrictions have been put on county residents.

"At this time, the county has ample capacity and is currently not imposing mandatory water conservation, however we always encourage our customers and citizens to use water wisely," Ludwig wrote.

Wiseman also added there have been no calls in about private wells being affected by the dry spell, but that people should take "reasonable measures to conserve water."

In addition to the lower temperatures, the National Weather Service forecast also shows a chance of thunderstorms and showers into Saturday.

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