Day one of a scorching heat wave engulfed Washington County Thursday, leaving the area hot and sticky, but otherwise relatively unscathed.
"We haven't seen hardly any heat-related illnesses," said Nicole Jovel, a spokeswoman for Meritus Medical Center. "Hopefully, people know to stay indoors and drink lots of fluids."
"We are holding tight," said Verna Brown, emergency management coordinator with the Washington County Division of Emergency Services.
"We checked the playgrounds, and they are doing good; the (Washington County) Health Department was checking on nursing homes. We have not needed to open any cooling centers. Unless there is an overnight change, we will hold tight again tomorrow and continue monitoring the situation."
Temperatures soared to 99 degrees in Hagerstown Thursday, according to Hagerstown Weather Watcher Greg Keefer's website i4weather.net.
Coupled with high humidity, the heat produced air that felt as hot as 110 degrees at times, the website reported.
The National Weather Service has extended today's excessive heat warning from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., said Meteorologist Kevin Witt of the Sterling, Va. office. A warning is also in effect for Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., he said.
Darkness is not expected to bring much relief though the heat wave. Thursday's overnight low was forecast to be 76 degrees with a heat index of 78, Witt said.
Humidity generally peaks at night and was expected to peak between 80 and 90 percent, he said.
To help Marylanders cope with the heat, the state Public Service Commission has temporarily prohibited public utilities from terminating gas and electric service to residential customers.
State regulations prevent utilities from cutting off service to customers who fail to pay when temperatures are forecast to reach 95 degrees or hotter in a 72-hour period, according to a commission news release.
Heat can put serious strain on an electric system and demand for electricity is expected to increase as the excessive heat and humidity continue.
As people try to stay cool in air-conditioned buildings, FirstEnergy spokesman Todd Meyers said the high electrical demand coupled with the excessive outdoor temperature can take a toll on the system.
"The worst will probably be tomorrow afternoon when some people are still at work and others are just coming home for the day," he said, referring to today.
PJM Interconnection — the regional power pool operator — and FirstEnergy will continue to monitor conditions throughout the week and will request assistance as necessary, the utility said in a news release.
Potomac Edison, which provides power locally, is one of FirstEnergy's companies.
By Thursday afternoon, no power outages had been reported in the state, Meyers said.
However, the Allegheny Power Management System reported that more than 1,000 customers in Maryland were without power Thursday evening, most of them in Clarksburg, Md., where there was trouble on a main line.
Tips to reduce air conditioner's energy usage
With hot and humid weather expected to continue across the area, FirstEnergy Corp.'s utility companies, including Potomac Edison, offer the following tips to help customers save money and conserve electricity:
- Consider setting air conditioners a few degrees warmer on hot days. Every degree you add to your interior temperature in the summer can reduce your energy usage by up to 3 percent.
- Close drapes or blinds on windows that receive direct sunlight. Blocking the sun's rays reduces the temperature in your home, meaning your air conditioner has less work to do.
- Close air-conditioning registers in unused rooms and keep the doors to those rooms closed. That will reduce the amount of energy your air conditioner will use to maintain your home's temperature.
- Don't position heat-producing appliances near wall-mounted thermostats. That makes your air conditioner run longer than necessary to maintain your preferred temperature.
- Turn off electric appliances and equipment that you do not need or are not using.
- Postpone using major electric household appliances, such as stoves, dishwashers and clothes dryers until the cooler, evening hours.
- Cook with the microwave instead of the oven. Traditional ovens require far more energy than microwaves, and they produce substantial heat inside your home, making your air conditioner run longer.