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Understanding heat waves

Leonardtown, MD – With temperatures projected to exceed 100 degrees this weekend, citizens are urged understand the meaning of an advisory, watch or warning and to exercise caution during the heat wave.

In recent years, excessive heat has caused more deaths than all other weather events, including floods. A heat wave is defined as a prolonged period of excessive heat, generally 10 degrees or more above average, often combined with excessive humidity. It is important to plan and prepare for your safety and the safety of your family and friends.

Weather forecasters use these terms when a heat wave is predicted:

  • Heat Advisory—Take Action! A Heat Advisory is issued within 12 hours of the onset of extremely dangerous heat conditions. The general rule of thumb for this Advisory is when the maximum heat index temperature is expected to be 100° or higher for at least 2 days and night time air temperatures will not drop below 75°. Take precautions to avoid heat illness. Not taking precautions may lead to serious illness or even death.
  • Excessive Heat Watch – Be Prepared! - Heat watches are issued when conditions are favorable for an excessive heat event in the next 24 to 72 hours. A Watch is used when the risk of a heat wave has increased but its occurrence and timing is still uncertain.
  • Excessive Heat Warning - Take Action! - An Excessive Heat Warning is issued within 12 hours of the onset of extremely dangerous heat conditions. The general rule of thumb for this Warning is when the maximum heat index temperature is expected to be 105° or higher for at least 2 days and night time air temperatures will not drop below 75°. Not taking the necessary precautions when conditions are extreme may lead to serious illness or death.


For more information and to learn how to stay safe during a heat wave visit

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