The Weather Service says we're in a heat wave


It's official.

Temperatures surpassed the 90-degree mark for the fifth straight day Wednesday, placing Maryland in the midst of a heat wave, according to the National Weather Service in Sterling, Va.

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Maryland's Department of the Environment issued a statewide drought warning Wednesday since no rain is in the forecast and temperatures are expected to remain high across the state.

The agency said the dry conditions could cause shortages in the state's public water supply.

Weather forecasters consider an area to be in the grip of a heat wave when temperatures reach at least 90 degrees for five consecutive days, said Christ Strong, a forecaster with the National Weather Service.


Hagerstown's high temperature Wednesday was 95 degrees, hot enough to set a record, according to local weather observer Greg Keefer's Web site.

The previous record for July 7 was 94 degrees set in 1899.

Although Wednesday's high was a record-breaker, it was cooler than on Tuesday, when the mercury soared to 100 degrees, tying a record set in 1977, according to Keefer's Web site.

Tuesday's heat index, which indicates the combined effect of heat and air moisture on human comfort, reached 106 degrees by 5 p.m.

Temperatures for the next five days are expected to be in the upper 80s to mid-90s with sunny skies, said Strong. Lows will range from 59 to 65.

"It will be typical July weather," he said.

Hot temperatures like those the area has been experiencing usually come along every two to three years, he said.

Strong said a "deep warm air mass and west winds over the Appalachians" are responsible for the hot, sticky weather.

"It's not uncommon," he said.

Last year, Washington County experienced milder temperatures, ranging from the upper 80s to low 90s, in July, and about three inches of rain fell during the month, according to Keefer's Web site.

Less than a quarter of an inch of rain has fallen in Washington County so far this month.

The Department of Environment in its release advised water conservation because precipitation has been below normal in Maryland for the past six months.

Western Maryland, which includes Washington County, has a rainfall deficit of nearly six inches.

Maryland's south central region is the hardest hit with a six-month rainfall deficit of more than a foot, and the Eastern Shore deficit is 10 inches in some areas, according to the Department of the Environment.

To help reduce the potential for water shortages, the agency recommends people:

  • Turn off water when brushing teeth, shaving or shampooing.
  • Take shorter showers.
  • Use laundry and dishwashers only when loads are full.
  • Install water-saving devices in the home, such as low-flow toilets.
  • Stop outdoor water use.
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