Md. steam-bath weather should ease by weekend

July 15, 1992|By Frank D. Roylance | Frank D. Roylance,Staff Writer

Mix up some lemonade and stick where you are. Relief is on the way.

After six straight days with highs in the 90s or worse, the National Weather Service now says a cool front headed east from Montana should get here sometime Saturday with "a little bit of cool air."

"The six- to 10-day outlook, from Sunday through Thursday, shows below-normal temperatures for our area, probably down in the lower and middle 80s, and drier as well," said Ken Shaver, a weather service forecaster at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

Until then, Marylanders can expect a continuation of the hot, humid weather that has smothered the region since Thursday. The weather through Friday should remain in the 90s, with a daily chance of afternoon showers and thunderstorms.

The mercury oozed up to 102 degrees at 2:35 p.m. yesterday in downtown Baltimore. That broke the old record of 101 set July 14, 1954, and created "extremely heavy" demand for electricity, a Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. spokesman said.

It reached 98 degrees at BWI, where the record also was 101, set in 1954.

Downtown temperatures are normally hotter because of heat retained by buildings and pavement.

Yesterday's was the first record-breaking heat in the current stretch of 90-plus weather -- the first extended heat wave in an otherwise cool spring and early summer.

"We haven't had a temperature below 80 in the city since 4 a.m. [July 9]," Mr. Shaver said. The only relief has come from the warm breezes that have been blowing from the west for the past two days. Reaching 30 mph Monday, they slowed a bit yesterday to 15 mph, with gusts to 20.

July heat waves should not be a surprise to anybody.

"We've just got the typical old pattern we've been running the last couple of years," said Mr. Shaver -- a high pressure system centered off the southeastern coast of the United States.

It might be called a Bermuda High, except this one is closer to the U.S. coast than usual.

"This is the first time this year it's really gotten established," Mr. Shaver said.

The high-pressure system has been there for five or six days, and the longer such highs linger "the more they build up, and the harder they are to displace," he said.

While they sit, these systems draw hot, humid air from the Gulf of Mexico, then pump it east across the Appalachians.

"The winds blow down the eastern slope of the mountains, and that heats the air even more as it descends," Mr. Shaver said.

The finished product blows into Maryland like a steam bath.

BG&E spokesman John A. Metzger said the demand for electricity yesterday reached an unofficial 5,563 megawatts at 6 p.m.

That was still short of the all-time record of 5,910 megawatts set last July 23.

A megawatt equals 1 million watts, enough to light Memorial Stadium or 10,000, 100-watt bulbs.

Peak demand last Wednesday, before the heat arrived, was just 3,892 megawatts, but rose to 5,267 megawatts Friday, when the temperature reached 100 degrees in downtown Baltimore.

Between BG&E's own generators and those of other utilities tied to the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland Interconnection, Mr. Metzger said, "there is plenty of generation capacity" to meet the demand.

The 30-day outlook issued yesterday by the weather service predicted near-normal temperatures and precipitation in Maryland through mid-August.

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