Like it hot? Then stick around May promises to be record-breaker as heat continues.

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

The weatherman brought no relief today from the hot and humid weather that has closed some schools, added to Maryland farmers' worries and set a record temperatures for the Baltimore region.

Today was a wilting carbon copy of yesterday, with temperatures in the 90s for the 7th day this month and more schools closing due to heat. And tomorrow will be a carbon copy of today, except there might be more clouds and some evening thunderstorms in the area.

If this keeps up, said Amet Figueroa, a National Weather Service forecaster, "this would be warmest May on record. As of yesterday, the average temperature at the airport was 69.1 degrees. Our record is 67.6 degrees, set in 1953. It looks pretty certain it will be broken.

"The city average so far is 72.9 degrees, and the old mark is 71.3 degrees, set in 1986. So it looks like that'll be broken too."

The temperature had reached 91 degrees at the airport by 1 p.m. It was 92 downtown, and headed for 95 or 96. An onshore breeze was expected to stop it there, Figeuroa said.

Today's heat forced city school officials to send students home from six elementary schools. Lockerman-Bundy Elementary School students went home at 12:30 p.m. for the third straight school day while officials await Board of Estimate Approval for $25,000 to repair replace faulty air conditioning equipment. School officials said repairs would take 5 to 7 days after approval is granted.

Air conditioning also broke down today at Federal Hill Elementary, and students went home at 11 a.m. George Street Elementary School closed at 12:15 p.m. due to a combination of roofing tar fumes and heat. Excessive heat also closed the Elmer A. Henderson, City Springs and Cecil elementary schools at 1 p.m.

When the thermometer at Baltimore-Washington International Airport reached a record 91 degrees at 1 p.m. today, it marked the seventh 90-plus day this month, also a record.

Fred Davis, chief National Weather Service meteorologist at BWI, said the old record of 6 days was set in 1970.

The temperature also topped 90 degrees downtown today for the seventh time. The record for 90-plus days in May downtown is nine, also set in 1970.

Meanwhile, Maryland farmers and home gardeners 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. Both old records, 90 degrees, were set in 1981, 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."

Schools in Anne Arundel County were open today after closing three hours early yesterday due to heat. In Baltimore, Southern High School was open today after closing early yesterday due to 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.

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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