In response to extreme high temperatures and high humidity levels, communities throughout southern Maryland opened up cooling centers on Monday, July 20.
According to SoMDNews.com, the National Weather Service issued a heat advisory calling for temperatures reaching into the upper 90s — with a heat index of around 109 degrees — on Monday and Tuesday. Heat advisories typically warn against combinations of high heat and humidity that can result in heat-related illness.
As a result, public buildings, pools, libraries, schools and other locations throughout Charles and St. Mary’s counties opened themselves up as cooling centers to help local residents stay cool. Additionally, residents were advised to wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing, drink plenty of water, limit strenuous work and avoid going outdoors whenever possible.
While many homeowners throughout southern Maryland have an air conditioning system to stay cool during summer’s hottest days, a significant amount don’t. In fact, just two out of three American households have air conditioners — meaning there are still millions of people across the country who still don’t have access to air conditioning in their own homes.
Many of southern Maryland’s older residents can still remember a time when no one had air conditioning in their homes, however.
Oftentimes, the only way to keep a home relatively cool was to open the windows. Lorraine Berry, 76, of La Plata, told SoMDNews.com that she would lie on the floor of her childhood home’s hallway during the summer to catch the breeze that drifted through the house.
“Houses were built for a cross-breeze,” she said.
Other ways people once dealt with the heat included eating ice cream, sitting on the porch and, of course, catching the newest movie and basking in the theater’s powerful air conditioning.
However, summers are much hotter these days — and for southern Maryland residents, air conditioning is often the only available respite from the heat.