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Severe weather renews climate-change talks in Washington, Annapolis

By Scott Dance

Policies to change building codes in flood plains and on shorelines, construct offshore wind turbines and manage suburban sprawl could gain political traction, officials hope, as recent extreme weather renews a conversation on climate change in Maryland and nationally.

State efforts to adapt to what officials are calling a "new normal" climate took center stage in a U.S. Senate hearing on climate change Wednesday, the first in 21/2 years. The state plans to begin integrating expectations of higher sea levels and more violent weather into government programs and policies by year's end.

Such changes are necessary, officials said, as Maryland and the nation endure a hot, dry summer, the latest in what seems like a surge in severe weather.

In Maryland, it could prove to be the deadliest weather in years — an updated tally shows heat-related deaths reaching 34, equaling last year's total with nearly two months of summer left. July, which started with recovery from 762,000 power outages amid 100-degree heat, ended up being the fifth-hottest on record in Baltimore.

The latest heat victims were an elderly Baltimore County woman and two elderly men in Wicomico and Montgomery counties, state officials said Tuesday. No other information on the victims was available. The death toll reached 47 in 2005 and 50 in 2002.

The circumstances are not only prompting a push for a closer look at the electricity grid, but for broader initiatives to prepare for extreme heat, snow, storms and flooding some scientists say could be coming.

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