Like it hot? Then stick around Heat wave is expected to continue as 90s will linger.

May 29, 1991|By Frank D. Roylance Joe Nawrozki contributed to this story.

Today was bringing no relief from the hot and humid weather that closed some schools yesterday, added to Maryland farmers' worries and set a record temperature for the Baltimore region.

Today was expected to be a wilting carbon copy of yesterday. And tomorrow will be a carbon copy of today, except there might be some evening thunderstorms in the metropolitan region.

Dick Diener, a National Weather Service forecaster, said today's temperatures would be in the upper 80s or low 90s, accompanied by enough humidity to make the heat a trifle more uncomfortable.

As the day progressed, Diener said, winds were shifting out of the south to bring in a little more warm, moist air.

"The only people who might benefit from that wind shift will be those on the Eastern Shore who will get a pretty nice sea breeze," he said.

The question is: Can they bottle that stuff and ship it up this way?

When the thermometer at Baltimore-Washington International Airport reached a record 92 degrees at 4:30 p.m. yesterday, it marked the sixth 90-plus day this month.

"That ties the record for the most 90-degree days in May at the airport," said Fred Davis, chief National Weather Service meteorologist at BWI. The record was set in 1970.

The temperature also topped 90 degrees downtown yesterday for the sixth time this month. But the record for 90-plus days in May downtown is nine, also set in 1970. The 90-degree heat closed schools three hours early yesterday in Anne Arundel County, and failed air conditioners forced two Baltimore City schools with sealed windows to send students home.

Maryland farmers and home gardeners, meanwhile, are watching the skies for rain as they watch their early vegetables droop from thirst.

"We need rain, now," said Tony Evans, spokesman for the Maryland Department of Agriculture.

The forecast calls for continued hot weather through Saturday, with high temperatures in the upper 80s and a chance of weekend showers and thunderstorms. Sunday should bring some relief from the heat, with highs forecast in the low to mid 80s.

The 10-day outlook predicts above-normal temperatures and near normal precipitation, with highs in the 80s through June 6.

The hot spell has melted several records, beginning last Saturday, when the temperature reached 94 degrees at the airport and in the city. The old records were both 90 degrees, set in 1981 at both locations, Davis said.

On Sunday, the thermometer reached 93 degrees at BWI, tying the record set in 1957.

A 32-year-old record fell at the airport yesterday when the high reached 92 degrees. It was also 92 downtown, but the record there was safe: 97 degrees set in 1941.

The hot weather is aggravating problems that farmers were already were worrying about -- mostly the result of sparse rainfall.

"They're not in any deep trouble yet," said Evans, but "they're beginning to worry." Maryland farmers struggled through four drought years in the 1980s, and an extremely wet year in 1989.

Only 1.16 inches of rain had fallen in May through yesterday, well short of the 3.44 inches that fall in an average May. February and April also were dry. Only a soggy March has prevented a more serious moisture shortage.

"Normally, by April we've gotten half the normal rainfall [for the year], and here it is the 28th of May and we've had just a little under a third of our normal rainfall," Evans said.

Yesterday morning's sprinkle was just a "tease," he said, "like a cat spitting."

The dry weather has already shortened the bearing period for strawberries from three weeks to two, he said. Late-planted peas are also expected to provide less abundant picking.

At home, Marylanders are sprinkling or watching their gardens parch and their lawns turn brown.

"I mulched heavily two weeks ago, and normally I wouldn't do that until the middle of June," Evans said.

"I have a tremendous amount of organic matter in my soil, and I notice when I come out in the morning the broccoli and cauliflower, which have big leaves, are standing straight as an Indian. But when I come home, they're droopy."

The heat closed schools three hours early in Anne Arundel County yesterday.

In Baltimore, Southern High School and Lockerman-Bundy Elementary School closed early because of air-conditioning problems.

Most city schools are not air conditioned but have windows that can be opened to help cool them. Schools that have air conditioning have windows that can't be opened, he said.

School department policy calls for a citywide closing if the temperature in the city reaches 90 degrees before 11 a.m. on a school day.

Harford County canceled afternoon kindergarten classes because of the heat, but students elsewhere put in a full day.

The heat has air conditioners running all across the region. But officials at Baltimore Gas & Electric said consumers have not set any records, and the utility's generators were able to keep up with demand.

"It looks like we're running nearly 10 percent under our previous peak," said BG&E spokesman John A. Metzger. The record load of 5,477 megawatts was set last year in the hour ending at 5 p.m. July 9.

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