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Forecasters: Mid-Atlantic Heat Index Could Top 115

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WASHINGTON (AP) — It only took a few steps outside Friday to break a sweat as excessive heat warnings were in effect for Baltimore, Washington, and all the way to the beaches of Maryland and Delaware.

Forecasters were predicting a high of over 100 degrees in the District of Columbia and much of Maryland, with a heat index that could make it feel like 115 to 120 degrees because of high humidity. The National Weather Service also warned that air quality may be poor Friday and Saturday in much of the area. Forecasters said people should limit their time outdoors and drink plenty of water.

David Robinson, 27, of Fort Washington, Md., said he has his own way to beat the heat as he took a break from his job as a facility manager for parking garages and sat on a bench in a downtown Washington park.

“You think cool,” he said. “If you constantly say, `It’s hot. It’s hot. It’s hot,’ you’re going to be hot.”

Dayana Byrnes, 21, who works for the website Scout Mob, was outside to promote the site and was sweating through her T-shirt. She said she’d probably be at the pool later in the day or over the weekend.

“I didn’t think legs could sweat,” said Byrnes, of Waldorf, Md., as she and a co-worker eyed a sprinkler nearby in a park.

At Washington Hospital Center, more patients have reported problems with asthma and other respiratory ailments because of the high humidity this week, but traffic at the emergency room Friday was fairly normal, said spokeswoman So Young Pak. A nurse said it appeared most people were taking precautions and staying inside.

In Baltimore, at least 14 emergency room visits Thursday were attributed to the heat, said Brian Schleter, a spokesman for the city’s health department. Heat is the top weather-related killer in the nation, he said.

“Be careful, don’t go out and do yard work,” Schleter said. “Postpone it, put off those duties.”

In downtown Baltimore, nurse Olivia Cross, 45, said she was doing “nothing but staying in the cold places and drinking plenty of cold water.”

That became difficult, though, as she traveled on the city’s subway and bus systems to visit client homes. By 10 a.m., temperatures already had hit the 90s. Cross said trains were running late underground, and temperatures were rising.

“You think it would be cool, but it’s not cool, it’s hot down there waiting on the train, and then we’re stuck down there for 20 minutes,” she said. “It’s just terrible.”

Maryland state health department spokeswoman Karen Black said the department didn’t have any reports of deaths attributed to the heat. No heat related deaths have been reported this year in the district, either, said D.C. Department of Health spokeswoman Mahlori Isaacs.

The heat warning prompted the University of the District of Columbia to close its Van Ness campus. A Living Earth Festival at the National Museum of the American Indian continued as planned with an outdoor farmers market on the National Mall to accompany an exhibit on climate change.

Park rangers were staying hydrated and seeing a steady stream of visitors on the National Mall, despite the heat, said National Park Service spokesman Terry Adams.

“We have air conditioning at the top of the Washington Monument,” he said, “and that’s a good thing.”

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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