Relief -- in the form of mercifully lower temperatures and hopefully some significant rainfall -- is on the way after the Baltimore region baked under record temperatures and wilting humidity yesterday.
The National Weather Service said the 1 p.m. temperature today was 88 degrees downtown and at Baltimore-Washington International Airport and the relative humidity was 54 percent, "a little wetter than we thought it would get," a weather service spokesman said.
"The other good news is: A front moving in should bring a significant rainfall starting tomorrow evening and perhaps go into the early morning," said forecaster Richard Diener. "If it forms up the way we see it now, we're possibly looking at a steady rain of perhaps approximately 10 hours."
"I would just keep my fingers crossed on the rain because a lot of things have to link up in order for it to be a soaking rain," the spokesman said. "But it's the best possibility we've had in a while."
The less severe temperatures should continue through the week, he said. More rain could fall Friday or Saturday, he said.
Summer does not officially arrive until Friday, but yesterday's temperature soared to 100 degrees at the Custom House in downtown Baltimore, breaking a 99-degree record downtown set for the date in 1957. A record also was set at BWI, where the mercury hit 99, breaking the previous record of 97 degrees, also established in 1957.
Yesterday's severe weather was also blamed for a house fire in East Baltimore.
Lightning struck power lines above a house in the 700 block of E. Preston St. last evening, creating a power surge that apparently blew up a television and sparked a two-alarm fire. Two residents were injured and six firefighters were overcome by heat exhaustion while battling the blaze in triple-digit heat.
The sizzling mercury made it difficult to breathe or walk.
"It was agonizing," said Tonya Oliver, 21, as she walked downtown about 8 p.m. "It was too hot. I stayed in under air conditioning all day."
Paul St. Jacques, 26, walking with friends downtown, said the heat caused him to stay inside with an air conditioner working at high gear. However, his friend Cantreal Williams, 23, said, "The heat wasn't too bad. It was the humidity."
A high pressure system over the Gulf of Mexico and Southeastern states triggered the warm air, said Ken Shaver, a forecaster at BWI. A late thunderstorm warning never amounted to much, although a small amount of rain did fall in scattered areas around the region.
The arrival of August two months early is not only upsetting farmers' planting schedules, but also will speed the spread of stinging sea nettles in Chesapeake Bay, University of Maryland researchers said.
While the number of nettles at the beginning of the spring was probably lower than usual, the record heat wave should accelerate their reproduction to a "middle-of-the-road year," said David Nemazie, a graduate student specializing in jellyfish at Horn Point Environmental Laboratory in Cambridge.
Nettles usually arrive at Annapolis-area beaches by late June or early July.
The beaches were packed with people in Ocean City yesterday, where the 70-degree water temperature offered a respite from 96-degree air.
The heat caused no sizable power outages, said Peggy Mulloy, a BG&E spokeswoman.
But an explosion in a manhole at Dundalk and Thruway avenues in Baltimore County caused about 490 customers to lose power fTC at 6:30 p.m. yesterday. By 8:37 p.m., all power was restored, Mulloy said.
The fire caused by lightning was reported at 6:30 p.m. and went to two alarms minutes later. It was under control at 7 p.m.
A firetruck rushing to the blaze collided with a car at North Calvert Street and Mount Royal Avenue, injuring the motorist.
At the fire, Herbert Thompson, 32, suffered second- and third-degree burns over most of his body. He was listed today in critical condition in the regional burn unit at the Francis Scott Key Medical Center.
The other injured resident, Dorothy Fitzgerald, 50, sustained second-degree burns of both arms and her neck and was taken to the Shock-Trauma Unit in Baltimore for treatment. She was listed in serious condition.
Both Thompson and Fitzgerald also suffered back and neck injuries, the result of jumping into an alley from a second-floor window to escape the flames and smoke.
The six firefighters were taken to Johns Hopkins Hospital for treatment of heat exhaustion and were released.
Capt. Robert Hatoff, of the fire investigation bureau, said the fire apparently began when lightning struck utility wires outside the house and sent as much as 2,000 volts into the house, creating a power surge that caused a TV set to explode and set off the fire.
Hatoff said that by the time the first of several pieces of fire apparatus arrived on the scene, the three-story dwelling was engulfed in flames, forcing Thompson and Fitzgerald, the only people home at the time, to jump for their lives.
Hatoff said what appeared to be the lower portion of a TV set was found in a room where the lightning entered the house.
City police investigating the accident between the car and the fire truck said a Mitsubishi Gallant was northbound on Calvert Street when it made a right turn onto Mount Royal Avenue and was struck by an eastbound fire truck headed to the fire.
Police said the car was dragged several feet by the fire truck, whose emergency lights were flashing and siren operating.
Police said none of the firefighters on the truck was hurt. The motorist, Peter Fosselman, 26, of Oakton, Va., was taken to Johns Hopkins Hospital, where he was listed in stable condition today after treatment of neck injuries.
Police said the fire truck received minor damage, while the car was extensively damaged.