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Health experts warn 'extreme heat' coming to Baltimore, open cooling centers

Baltimore City Health Department

Baltimore’s heat index, or the temperature it feels like outdoors, is forecasted to be in the triple digits until early next week.

The ‘extreme heatwave’ means temperatures during the day are hitting the mid-90s which can be dangerous causing illness and even death.

Health experts issued a ‘code red’ warning to residents to be mindful about heat exposure this weekend through Monday night.

The average person’s internal body temperature is 98 degrees but when exposed to extreme heat, body temperatures increase which could be life threatening, said Dr. Clifford Mitchell, director of environmental health for the Maryland Department of Health.

“As the body loses its ability to maintain its own temperature, you initially obviously start to sweat,” Mitchell said. “Your body tries to cool off, but at some point or other, you overwhelm the body’s system that controls the internal temperature.”

The heat index in Maryland is projected to hit the triple digits.
National Weather Service
The heat index in Maryland is projected to hit the triple digits.

When body temperature increases, vital organs and muscles can start breaking down, he said. Once internal body temperature hits 100 degrees, minor problems happen, then more serious issues. Nerve pathways don’t work as well and someone may feel confused, light-headed and nauseous. In extreme cases, people get heat stroke and can lose consciousness because their internal systems are shutting down, he said.

“Tissues break down, you can damage the kidneys. Ultimately, when your body temperature becomes high enough, basic systems break down,” he said. “Cells stop working, the brain stops working and you can have heat related death.”

So far this year one person has died from a heat-related incident.

Staying hydrated, seeking cooler environments such as air conditioning or even a fan matters because the onset of heat-related illness can happen without warning.

“More frequent breaks than normal, stay hydrated, get into cool places and certainly check on neighbors, friends and relatives who are older, who may not be able to get into protective environments,” he said.

The following are cooling centers available in the Baltimore region.

  • Harford Senior Center 410-426-4009
  • Hatton Senior Center 1700 N. Gay Street 410-396-3861
  • Sandtown Winchester Senior Center 1601 Baker Street 410-396-7724
  • Zeta Center for Healthy and Active Aging 4501 Reisterstown Road 410-396-3535
  • My Sister’s Place Women’s Center 17 West Franklin Street Monday - Sunday 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (Women and children only). 
  • Mana House 435 E. 25th Street Monday - Friday 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. 
  • Beans & Bread 402 S. Bond Street Monday - Friday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. 
  • Franciscan Center 101 W. 23rd Street Monday - Friday 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. 
Bethany Raja is WYPR's City Hall Reporter
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