Montgomery County will undergo a Heat Emergency Alert this weekend, starting at 11 a.m. Thursday to 9 p.m. Saturday, issued by the Montgomery County Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security.
The National Weather Service predicts the heat index will reach up to 105 degrees on Friday and Saturday. The heat index is known as the “feels-like” temperature and is the combination of relative humidity and air temperature.
The county government is warning residents to be cautious of extreme heat, which can lead to heat-related illnesses such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion or heat stroke. While there are no sweeping restrictions due to the heat, the county’s advisory seeks to raise awareness and safety precautions.
The hottest times will be from 2 to 4 p.m., said Dr. Earl Stoddard, Director of the Montgomery County Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, because the atmosphere heats up throughout the day.
“Symptoms of heat-related illnesses may include painful muscle spasms or cramps, pale or flushed skin that may be damp or cool, dizziness, nausea, headache and weakness in the early stages,” a county press release read. “In extreme cases, red, hot, dry skin, weak pulse, rapid breathing and changes in consciousness can occur.”
Heat stroke, according to Dr. Kisha Davis, Montgomery County’s Health Officer, is a medical emergency. If residents feel extreme symptoms, she encourages people to call 911.
“It really is something that folks want to take seriously and not just treat by yourself,” Davis said.
The county suggests that people go to public sites, such as libraries, swimming pools, recreation centers and senior centers to cool off during the day.
Free bottled water will also be available to Montgomery County Ride-On Bus Riders.
Various county services are targeting especially vulnerable populations, such as people who are unhoused and pets.
Homeless facilities in Silver Spring and Rockville will remain open around the clock to provide cool spaces during the day when they’re typically not open, County Executive Marc Elrich (D) said.
“Our homeless outreach teams and the police department will be working collaboratively to get the homeless off the street and into shelters,” Stoddard said. “If they refuse, we will provide them with… plenty of water and resources.”
This weekend, the Montgomery County Police Animal Services Division will be enforcing their Anti-Cruelty for Dogs legislation, which prohibits owners from leaving pets unattended in vehicles or outdoors during periods of high temperatures. The penalty for this violation is a $500 fine. They are also working with commercial kennels to ensure they follow the guidelines as well.
As for employees who work outside, avoiding the heat might be difficult; supervisors we spoke to are encouraging brief stints outdoors and mindful hydration.
At Bethesda Outdoor Pool, for example, guards consistently rotate between chairs and the air-conditioned office.
“We don’t leave guards up very long,” Assistant Manager Max Kaminski said, stating that guards will typically sit in two different chairs – for around 30 to 40 minutes total – before returning to the office.
Pete Piringer, chief spokesperson for Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service, said extreme heat for firefighters is “nothing new.”
He said there is full medical support for personnel, and they encourage firefighters to pre-hydrate before their shifts.
“There are procedures and guidelines for our workers to deal with the heat when it reaches a certain humiture,” Piringer said. “It’s all in an effort to position us to better serve the public.”
With highs of 98 degrees, this weekend is expected to be the hottest of 2023 so far.
Elrich said unless climate change is taken seriously, these conditions will only worsen.
“I want to be blunt about what we’re experiencing this summer… record-breaking temperatures, wildfire smoke and drought conditions are not mere anomalies, and sadly this is becoming a new global norm,” he said. “We’re past the point of debating whether climate change is going to impact our daily lives. Clearly, it already is.”