Baltimore copes with first stretch of heat this season

The first significant stretch of heat this year already has some residents yearning for the cooler days of early spring, but they'll have to wait until the end of the week for some relief.

Temperatures in downtown Baltimore reached 95 degrees Tuesday, which was notably above the mid-80s weather that's typical this time of year, according to the National Weather Service. The all-time high for June 17 was 96 degrees in 1939. The Tuesday high at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, where records are measured now, was 94.

Kurt Miller, wearing a dress shirt and trousers, cursed the heat while as he walked through downtown Baltimore on his lunch break.

"Women have it good," joked the 25-year-old Frederick man, who works at a local nonprofit agency. "I wish I could wear skirts and stuff to work."

Mount Vernon resident Rachel Sanchez, 26, said the first breath of hot weather already made her miserable.

"I'm much more of a winter person," she said. "As soon as I'm feeling a little bit of heat, I'm unhappy."

The weather service says temperatures will remain in the 90s until Friday, when they are expected to dip back down to the mid-80s.

Not everyone bemoans the high temperatures.

John Murphy, a 74-year-old Baltimore-based attorney, was grateful for the warmer weather after a cool spring.

"I have a sailboat," Murphy said. "I like to be out on the Chesapeake, and that's what I associate the hot weather with."

Although the heat index was near 100 degrees, local jurisdictions weren't quite ready to declare a weather-related emergency. Code Red alerts are typically issued when the heat index, which is calculated using actual temperatures and the amount of moisture in the air, reaches 105 degrees or above.

"We're not really at levels that would warrant a heat advisory," said Steve Zubrick, a National Weather Service meteorologist. "But the first heat of the year can be a bit of a shock to some people."

An air quality alert was issued Tuesday. Baltimore-area residents were warned that air pollution concentrations within the region could be unhealthy for children, the elderly and other sensitive people.

"The winds aren't as strong [during hotter weather]," Zubrick said. "There's less venting for the pollutants in the air."

City health officials are urging residents to prepare now for even hotter days ahead. The summer solstice arrives Saturday at 6:51 a.m.

Suggestions for coping with the weather include staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water or juice, reducing outdoor activity, wearing lightweight and light-colored clothing and staying inside during the peak heat hours of 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Residents are also asked to check in on people in their communities who may need help coping with heat.

Signs of heat-related illnesses include nausea, confusion, flushed skin, high body temperatures with clammy skin and rapid or slow heart beat.

Baltimore City issued six Code Red declarations in 2013 and there were two hyperthermia-related heat deaths. There were 17 declarations and 13 hyperthermia deaths the year before.

The city opens cooling centers during emergencies. More information on the centers is available by calling 311.

"We need to get people thinking about this stuff now, before there is a crisis," said Patrick Chaulk, a physician with the Baltimore City Health Department.

Baltimore Sun reporter Scott Dance contributed to this article.

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