Late storms douse spring's sweltering swan song Most of the day was 'too darn hot'

June 21, 1993|By Laura Lippman and Joe Nawrozki | Laura Lippman and Joe Nawrozki,Staff Writers Staff writers Kris Antonelli and Shanon D. Murray contributed to this report.

Summer starts officially today, but the last few days of spring will be a hard act for the hot season to follow.

The temperature in downtown Baltimore hit 92 degrees yesterday -- the seventh 90-plus day of 1993. Baltimore-Washington International Airport had a high of 90 degrees, its fourth 90-or-higher day.

The heat and humidity touched off a band of strong thunderstorms that moved across the metropolitan area shortly after 7 p.m. -- with lightning that was blamed for several fires and power outages -- and temporarily knocked out the power at Carroll County's Emergency Operations Center that handles 911 telephone calls. State and local police responded to calls for help while the damage was repaired.

As the storms moved through Baltimore, the temperature dropped from a prestorm 88 degrees to 74 degrees after the storm passed, according to the National Weather Service.

Lightning knocked out power to more than 15,800 Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. customers, said Peggy Mulloy, a company spokeswoman. Most of those affected were in Baltimore City and Baltimore and Carroll counties.

Lightning was also believed to have started several fires in the city, including a four-alarmer at St. James Episcopal Church at West Lafayette and Fremont avenues. Damage was estimated at $500,000.

Baltimore was hardest hit by lightning strikes, the Weather Service said. In addition to the fires, there were numerous reports of trees felled by bolts of lightning.

Two southwest city teen-agers were knocked to the ground by the impact of lightning that struck a tree in the 3600 block of Clarenell Road around 7 p.m. as they passed by holding hands, police said.

The youths -- a 14-year-old girl and 17-year-old boy -- were released after hospital treatment. Police said they were knocked down by the shock of the lightning bolt, but not burned.

The evening rain provided temporary relief for those who had to swelter through what some might call a typical Baltimore summer day.

As Cole Porter once wrote about Baltimore's weather, that's "too darn hot." It even affected kielbasa and pit beef sales at the 20th annual Polish Festival, a virtually breeze-less and polka-less affair yesterday in Patterson Park.

"People don't come out when it's this hot," said Sonny Minnick, sweating in the shade of his pit beef stand. However, business at the beer and lemonade stands was brisk.

And at the third annual Fells Point Maritime Festival, panting visitors could take solace in the fact that at least one person was hotter than almost anyone -- Alan Gephardt, dressed as Francis Scott Key to promote re-enactments of the Battle of North Point planned for Defender's Day celebrations in September.

People gawked at the smiling Mr. Gephardt, garbed in leather riding boots, heavy cotton breaches, a long-sleeved and high-necked shirt, a vest, wool jacket and stovepipe hat.

"It's all natural materials," he said cheerfully. "As long as I don't move too quickly, I'm fine."

Throughout Baltimore yesterday, the only people moving quickly, it seemed, were those en route to air conditioning -- in movie theaters, malls and restaurants.

A weak southeasterly breeze helped to keep things slightly cooler along the waterfront, said Amet Figueroa of the National Weather Service at BWI, but the day was still sticky and humid.

Selester Robinson and his 14-year-old son, Jason, took a 75-minute ride from their home in West Chester, Pa., in hopes of finding cooler temperatures at the Inner Harbor.

"There is a slight breeze blowing and it helps," said Mr. Robinson, a marketing executive, as he stood in line with his son to board the Ne Brasil, a Brazilian naval training ship docked in the harbor.

High temperatures in the state ranged from 96 in Hagerstown and Waldorf, to 94 in Bel Air, 92 in Annapolis and 91 in Westminster.

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