Surely you recall 1991 and 1988?

HOT SUMMER, BUT NO RECORD

September 04, 1993|By Gregory P. Kane | Gregory P. Kane,Staff Writer

So you thought it was hot this summer? Perhaps the heat has affected your memory.

"People think you have to go back many years to find a summer as hot as this one. I've heard people say, 'We haven't had a summer this hot since, since. . .'," said Fred Dean, chief meteorologist of the National Weather Service.

Try 1991, suggests Mr. Davis.

Then, the average 24-hour temperature then for June through August was 77.3 degrees at the Baltimore-Washington International Airport -- hot enough to tie it for first with the summer of 1988.

The summer of 1993, as harsh as it seemed, ranks only No. 5 on the all-time list at 76.3 degrees on average.

"Surprisingly, we didn't have that many records set," said Mr. Davis. "But we did have an excess of . . . 90-degree days."

There are, on the average, six 90-degree days in June, 11 in July and eight in August. This past summer, June had seven 90 degree days, July had 15 and August had 13. There were 12 days when the temperature hit 100 degrees or better. Only 1988 had more, with 13.

The summer of '93 may have been hot, but it wasn't especially dry in the metropolitan area. BWI recorded 6.82 inches of rainfall. The city had 7.67 inches.

Less rain fell at the airport in three other summers. Again, 1991 was the leader, with only 5.38 inches measured. In Baltimore, there have been 17 other summers with less rain.

Mr. Davis' data were confirmed by Marsha Collins, a public information officer for the city's Public Works Department.

"We've had a very good year [of rainfall]," said Ms. Collins. "The water levels at city reservoirs are still very high."

Loch Raven Reservoir is at 239 feet, according to Ms. Collins, only one foot shy of its maximum. Pretty Boy Reservoir is less than one foot from its maximum level, and Liberty Reservoir is three feet down, but "that's a much larger reservoir," Ms. Collins pointed out. Heavy rains in the spring and early summer accounted for the surplus water.

The summer of 1993 has seen two records set: July had five consecutive days when the mercury climbed to 100 degrees or higher, one more than the previous record set in 1930. Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. reported a record for electricity consumption in the month of July.

The National Weather Service had to issue about "a dozen or so" excessive heat alerts, Mr. Davis said. Excessive heat alerts are issued when the "heat index" -- a measurement of how hot it feels when the temperature and humidity are taken into account -- reaches 105 degrees or more.

And there were several adverse effects caused directly by the summer of '93's heat.

* Maryland farmers lost $50 million in corn and soybean crops.

* Amtrak schedules were sometimes at least one hour behind as torrid temperatures caused rails to expand and buckle and trains to slow down.

* At least one hospital -- Baltimore's Bon Secours -- had problems with patient care on one early July afternoon when fire hydrants were turned on and caused water pressure levels to drop so drastically that surgical instruments could not be cleaned.

Fortunately, the frequent incidents of fire hydrants being turned on illegally didn't affect city firefighters, but only because "we were lucky," said Capt. Hector L. Torres of the city Fire Department. "The potential was always there."

* Maintenance workers for the Housing Authority were sent home early 17 times because of the heat before Daniel P. Henson, the authority's executive director, ended the practice of granting "heat leave"

But how can 1993 possibly be considered worse than 1988, a summer that:

* Remains tied for first as hottest ever.

* Had 21 consecutive days when the temperature reached 90 degrees or better -- a record that still stands.

* Had 11 days in July at or near the record high for those dates.

* Had 23 of 31 days in July reach a temperature of 90 degrees or better.

* Had 13 days when the temperature reached 100 or better.

Whatever our suffering this summer -- or any other -- autumn comes along to ease the pain.

The National Weather Service's long-range forecast for the fall of 1993 calls for mostly normal temperatures.

The average temperature for the months of September, October and November is 59 degrees.

There, however, will be a slight chance of above-normal precipitation. The average is 8.5 inches.

HOT TIMES

These are the five warmest summers, based on average temperatures recorded at BWI Airport during June through August:

1991... ... 77.3

1988... ... 77.3

1952... ... 76.5

1968... ... 76.5

1993... ... 76.3

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