Heat claims 2 more Md. seniors, for total of 5 killed

By David Nakamura
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Washington area's oppressive heat wave was blamed in two more deaths Tuesday as the mercury climbed past 90 degrees for the 11th consecutive day and the mark for the hottest June on record was tied, officials said.

A respite is predicted for Wednesday, with temperatures in the low 80s forecast for the next few days.

The temperature at Reagan National Airport has reached 90 or higher on 18 days this month, equaling a record set in 1943, said Kevin Witt, a National Weather Service meteorologist. The hottest day of the month was Thursday, when the mercury reached 100, he said.

"It should tie the record," Witt said Tuesday, although the Weather Service was awaiting official temperature readings.

The Washington area is not alone in its misery: A high-pressure zone in the south-central part of the country has warmed much of the South and Midwest to above-average temperatures.

The record-tying June followed the snowiest Washington winter on record.

Serious consequences came with the heat: The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said two senior citizens, one in Cecil County and one in Prince George's County, died of hyperthermia Tuesday. That raised the regional total of heat-related deaths this month to five.

Spokeswoman Karen Black said four of the residents' homes had no air conditioning, and temperatures in the residences were higher than 90 degrees. The Cecil resident collapsed outdoors.

The area's previous heat-related deaths also involved seniors: one in Montgomery County and two in Baltimore County. The three died last week.

Six heat-related deaths were reported in the area last year. There were 17 in 2008 and 21 in 2007, officials said.

"Everyone should be careful in hot weather, especially elderly people, young children, and those who are overweight," Maryland Health and Mental Hygiene Secretary John M. Colmers said in a statement. "While chronic health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and respiratory illnesses increase an individual's risk, there are things people can do to protect themselves."

Officials recommend drinking plenty of water, wearing loose-fitting clothes and avoiding direct sun exposure.

This month also will challenge the record for highest average temperature in June. As of Tuesday, the average was 90 degrees, tying June 1994, Witt said, although Wednesday's predicted lower temperatures should reduce the month's average slightly.

As for the long-range forecast, Witt said, there is "more than a decent chance" that the average temperatures through mid-September will be above average.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company