City high of 87 smashes 1907's record Suddenly, summer

March 24, 1994|By David Michael Ettlin | David Michael Ettlin,Sun Staff Writer Contributing writer Karin Remesch provided information for this article.

Ding dong, the winter's dead, the wicked winter's dead.

Positively, unequivocally, quite sincerely dead.

So what if it snowed a bit as recently as Friday -- or that snow buried the state on the Palm Sunday of March 29, 1942; played a 9-inch joke on Baltimore for April Fool's Day in 1924; or delayed an Oriole opening day by a few minutes on April 8, 1985.

Time to pack away the snow shovel and boots, clean out the swimming pool, tune up the air conditioner and think about the greenhouse effect: Temperatures hit a summerlike 87 in Baltimore yesterday, shattering a nearly century-old record.

Across Maryland, the mercury climbed higher than it had in months -- from the upper 60s in mountainous Garrett County to the upper 70s and 80s elsewhere.

Baltimore's high temperature was 5 degrees higher than the record for March 23 set in 1907, and it was the warmest day since Sept. 14. The high of 80 at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, the warmest there since Oct. 9, topped the 1978 record of 74 degrees.

Along the city's brick Inner Harbor promenade, sandals and short sleeves were favored as fashion statements on the dramatic weather change. Lovers embraced on the benches, businessmen shed their jackets, and babies basked in the sunshine in open-top strollers.

For Emma Thompson of Pasadena, it was almost like being back home -- in her native Philippines, whose warmth she admitted to having missed during winter's icy assault. "I'm used to this," she said of the 80-plus temperature, sitting on a harborside bench with her husband, merchant seaman Keith Thompson, and their smiling 8-month-old daughter, Koreena.

"We had planned this -- we always control the weather," said photographer Tobechi Tobechuwu, walking backward with camera firing at fashion model Lenora Dawson, who was showing off a spring jacket and slacks for portfolio photos.

But it could have been raining or snowing, Mr. Tobechuwu said -- he shoots in all kinds of weather. "Right after the last ice storm," he said, "I got up on a roof -- she had on a trench coat with just a brassiere and underwear -- and photographed at night."

He had the portfolio right there, to prove it.

Presiding over the harbor scene was Jane Langenwalter, a volunteer operating the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association information booth where business -- if not exactly booming -- was a lot better than last week.

In Bel Air, hard hit by ice storms all winter, the suddenly summer feeling lured workers outdoors for lunch -- and by 3 p.m. Henry Doyle, owner of the Country Gourmet on Main Street, was yearning to sit at one of his sidewalk tables and relax in the sun.

"Thank God it's spring," said Mr. Doyle, preparing to bake cheesecake for the deli crowds he hoped would return today. Lines for sandwiches started forming at 11:30 a.m. and didn't stop until 2:30 p.m.

"We made over 200 sandwiches today, compared to the usual 125," he said, "and that's not counting soup, salads and dessert."

"I don't usually go out to eat," said one customer there, Barbara Hernan-Clark, a health department worker looking up from a report she had brought along to read, "but the weather was so nice, I just couldn't resist."

Nearby, Irene Pino spent her lunch break soaking up rays in front of the Harford County Courthouse. Ms. Pino, a secretary for the state's attorney office, was not looking forward to going back inside.

"This is great, it's the best," she said. "As far as I'm concerned, it can stay like this. It's great to finally be able to go outdoors. I feel I've been cooped up all winter."

Fred Davis, chief of the National Weather Service regional office at BWI, said yesterday's taste of summer was brought by winds from the southwest behind a high pressure system, bringing up warm, dry Gulf air.

L "Our humidity was only 17 percent this afternoon," he noted.

The temperatures compared with a normal range for late March of lows in the upper 30s and low 40s, and highs in the upper 50s. Temperatures are likely to reach the low 70s today, with increasing clouds and a chance of showers.

And there is no hint of snow through Palm Sunday.

"I was enjoying telling people today around the airport about this type of weather, instead of the bad news I had before," Mr. Davis said. "It gave me a warm feeling."

So is winter dead?

"We say there's not going to be any more winter snow or ice storms," Mr. Davis replied, "because if they happen now, they will be spring snow and ice storms."

That's guaranteed.

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