Yesterday's 100-degree summer blast didn't faze Arnold Williams for a minute. He brought his deck chair to Druid Hill Park, propped his feet up against a white ash tree and watched the traffic roll by.
"This seemed like a nice thing to do today and it's my favorite spot," said the 52-year-old retired University Hospital worker, who drove to the park from Edmondson Village. "It's shady, there's a breeze and it's open enough that I feel comfortable and safe."
In Marble Hill, where neighborhood children splashed around an open fire hydrant at Lanvale and McCulloh streets, Sharon Smith, 30, suddenly found herself part of the fun. She was waiting for her husband to leave work when the youngsters started throwing water. "I yelled at first, but it was so cool I just loved it," Mrs. Smith said as she sat on the curb sipping soda -- and getting wet, again.
City swimming pools were jammed with young and old seeking relief, with 890 swimmers at Druid Hill Park alone. "We come and stay all day when it's like this," said Bob Banks, 29, who brought his wife and three sons and a nephew to the pool. "It's so refreshing to get into the water," Mr. Banks said.
As thousands like the Banks family tried to ease the discomfort, the temperature rose inexorably, hitting 100 degrees in Baltimore at 4:10 p.m. with a sopping 50 percent humidity, according to the National Weather Service at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.
While it was not a record, the heat combined with the humidity to produce a miserably uncomfortable day. And the National Weather Service says area residents face more of the same today.
And it was hot and humid enough yesterday to send what forecasters call the "heat index" to 125, meaning that people who didn't protect themselves from the heat were likely to suffer sunstroke, heat exhaustion or heat stroke. "These can be life-threatening heat index readings, and we're expecting the same tomorrow," said Bill Miller, a National Weather Service forecaster at BWI.
Mr. Miller advised people, especially young children and the elderly, to avoid strenuous activity, wear lightweight clothes, drink lots of water, avoid alcohol and stay out of the sun today. Overweight people should also be cautious about overexertion.
Air quality reached unhealthful levels in the Baltimore area late yesterday afternoon -- for the third time this year -- as the hot sun cooked up ozone out of the invisible soup of chemicals spewed into the air every day by auto emissions, power plants and myriad other sources.
The city Housing Authority, concerned about possible power outages caused by overloaded circuit breakers, asked tenants yesterday to conserve energy in high-rise buildings that have window air conditioners by limiting use of appliances such as irons and toaster ovens.
"Window air conditioners put an unusual strain the electrical systems," said authority spokesman Bill Toohey. "These buildings were put up in the 1950s and 1960s and they were not designed for this kind of electrical demand." Last summer, a half-dozen high-rises lost power at times, affecting several hundred tenants.
Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. has had no outages or power-supply problems despite the high demand caused by the oppressive weather, said spokesman John Metzger.
Today should be an instant replay of yesterday, with high temperatures reaching the upper 90s to 100. And everyone will suffer: the story should be pretty much the same from Oakland to Ocean City.
Temperatures should ease slightly Sunday, reaching the low-to-mid 90s, but the heat is expected to remain until Tuesday, at least.