School daze: Heat becomes a treat HEATING UP, COOLING OFF

May 30, 1991|By Frank D. Roylance | Frank D. Roylance,Evening Sun Staff Joe Nawrozki, Alisa Samuels and Patrick Gilbert contributed to this story.

Six consecutive days of 90-degree-plus heat and humidity finally melted the hearts of school officials today. Students in the HTC city and in Harford and Baltimore counties were released from airless classrooms and sent home early.

And tomorrow, Saturday, Sunday and Monday all appear to be shaping up with more of the same -- hot, hazy and humid. The only brief respite from the wilting heat may come from thunderstorms, given a 50 percent chance of occurring late this afternoon or evening.

Sweltering students in the city were sprung today at 12:30 p.m. The decision was made, by the book, when temperatures passed the 90-degree mark by 11 a.m., said school spokesman Karen Poe.

In Baltimore County, students got their closing bells an hour ahead of schedule due to the heat. There had been a reluctance to dismiss early before today because it would have disrupted senior exam schedules, spokesman Rick Bavaria said.

And Harford County school officials gave in to the heat and poor air circulation in school buildings today and sent students there home two hours early.

Temperatures had climbed to 95 degrees at Baltimore Washington International Airport by 1 p.m. today, breaking a 94-degree record set in 1969. It was 96 downtown, where the record for the date is 97.

The heat has even made Baltimore an uncomfortable place to be at night, if you don't have air conditioning. The National Weather Service said today the overnight low of 74 degrees on Tuesday was a record high minimum for May. The previous record was 71 degrees on May 31, 1975.

The city low of 76 degrees on Tuesday fell short of the 80-degree record set May 30, 1969.

The mercury bubbled up to 95 degrees yesterday in Baltimore, and the region seems poised to steam tomorrow into an unwelcome ninth day of 90-plus heat this month. That would set another May record at the airport and tie the record downtown, set in 1970.

And with just one day left, this seems a cinch to go down as the hottest May on record in Baltimore, forecasters say.

A series of windy thunderstorms that rolled through yesterday evening brought little rain but knocked out power to 9,000 Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. customers. Falling trees and limbs cut power lines in parts of Baltimore and Carroll counties. All power was restored by 8 a.m. today, a utility spokesman said.

Some area hospitals reported a trickle of people seeking treatment for heat-related problems.

Franklin Square Hospital in eastern Baltimore County counted 20 patients treated in the emergency room over 24 hours for troubles ranging from sunburn to heat exhaustion and dehydration, said spokesman Fran Kelleher.

The heat even got to the "heat" yesterday, as a Baltimore police officer was overcome while on patrol in East Baltimore.

Southeastern District Officer Ronald Roberts, 44, a 19-year veteran, was stricken while getting out of his car to check the Signet Bank in the 5800 block of Eastern Ave.

"He felt woozy, and was leaning against his car," said Dennis Hill, a city police spokesman. "A female citizen saw him and asked if he was all right. He didn't respond and she grabbed his radio."

The woman managed to call for assistance and Roberts was on the ground when help arrived, Hill said. He was taken to Francis Scott Key Medical Center, where he was treated for dehydration and released.

After Roberts was diagnosed, officers citywide were encouraged to drink more water, Hill said.

The extended outlook through June 8 is for more of the same, with above-average temperatures and below average precipitation.

Yesterday's highs both downtown and at the airport fell short of the records for the date: 97 at BWI and 100 degrees downtown.

National Weather Service forecaster Fred Davis said temperatures in May are averaging 69.6 degrees at Baltimore-Washington International Airport through the 29th, certain to break the old record of 67.3 degrees, set in 1959.

At the Custom House downtown, where weather records go back to 1871, the average so far this May is 73.3 degrees. The old mark is 71.3 degrees, set in 1986.

The hot May weather does not portend an especially hot summer, Davis said. Weather records show that, after the three warmest Mays on record, in 1959, 1965 and 1970, the airport experienced one warm summer, one cool summer, and one about normal.

"The verdict based on those three years does not show any correlationbetween record-breaking heat in May, and record-breaking heat in thesummer months," Davis said.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke today instructed city public housing officials to urge residents in the older public housing buildings to conserve their use of window air conditioners.

The mayor said that when the window units are all used at once, it overloads the older electrical systems of these buildings.

BG&E spokeswoman Peggy Mulloy said yesterday's demand for electrical power set a new record for May of 5,213 megawatts. That was nearly 1,000 megawatts higher than the previous record of 4,252, set in May 1988, but below the record of 5,477 megawatts set last July 9.

She said BG&E was having no trouble keeping up with the demand for power.

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