Code Red For Today, Tomorrow

Cooling Centers Open Around City

Those At Risk Urged To Stay Indoors As Heat, Humidity Return

August 10, 2009|By Joe Burris | Joe Burris,joseph.burris@baltsun.com

With some of the highest temperatures of the summer predicted through Tuesday, Baltimore city's health department issued the year's first Code Red Heat Alert and announced Sunday that the city will open emergency cooling centers and provide free bus passes to help residents seek shelter from the heat.

Interim Health Commissioner Olivia D. Farrow declared the alert after the National Weather Service forecast a potentially hazardous combination of high temperatures and humidity for the next two days. Spokesman Brian Schleter said that the city's last heat alert before this was Sept. 14.

The weather service issued a heat advisory for the Baltimore-Washington area from noon to 10 p.m. today. The service's Web site said that temperatures will rise into the 90s throughout the area by noon and reach the upper 90s by afternoon. The high temperatures, combined with relative humidity near 50 percent, will create several hours of heat indices near 105 this afternoon, making heat illnesses possible, it said.

Today is also forecast to be a "Code Orange" day for air quality, meaning ozone pollution could reach unhealthy levels for sensitive people, including children and those with heart or lung problems. Clean Air Partners, a Washington-based nonprofit group distributing air-quality information for local and state governments, urged such people to limit their time outdoors.

On Tuesday, air quality is expected to return to Code Yellow, meaning ozone pollution levels pose a risk only to highly sensitive individuals, the group says. The weather service predicts it will be cloudy that day, with a high of 94 and 40 percent chance of rain.

The city housing department will maintain air-conditioned cooling shelters on both days, with water and ice available at six community centers. They are open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The sites are: Northern Community Action Center, 5225 York Road; Southern Community Action Center, 606 Cherry Hill Road (inside the shopping center's second floor); Northwest Community Action Center, 3314 Ayrdale Ave.; Western Community Action Center, 1133 Pennsylvania Ave.; Southeastern Community Action Center, 3411 Bank St.; and Eastern Community Action Center, 1400 E. Federal St.

Another five cooling centers will be run by the Commission on Aging at these sites: Waxter Center, 1000 Cathedral St.; Oliver Center, 1700 Gay St.; Sandtown-Winchester Center, 1601 Baker St.; Hatton Center, 2825 Fait Ave.; and John Booth Senior Center, 229 1/2 S. Eaton St.

In addition, residents can go to recreation and parks centers throughout the city for relief from the heat.

The Maryland Transit Administration plans to distribute passes good for one free bus trip on Code Red heat alert days. The passes are available at emergency departments, social service agencies, churches, cooling centers and other venues. City residents concerned about their neighbors also can request them from local fire stations.

"The Fire Department ... will have extra medics available on the street," Farrow said. "We really want to get the message out for people to look for friends and neighbors who don't have air conditioning."

Farrow said that residents should take precautions during the heat wave: Drink plenty of water or juice, avoid alcohol and caffeine, wipe skin with cool water as needed, reduce outside activities, wear lightweight and light-colored clothing, and stay inside during the hottest time of day. Also, watch for signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke, including nausea, light-headedness and high body temperature with cool and clammy skin.

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