High of 'just 95' comes as relief

June 17, 1994|By Douglas Birch | Douglas Birch,Sun Staff Writer

Maryland was mugged again yesterday by a heat wave, born of a weather pattern that normally occurs in late August instead of mid-June.

A steep ridge of high pressure air has stalled along the East Coast, said Andrew J. Wagner, a meteorologist in the prediction branch of the National Weather Service's Climate Analysis Center in Camp Springs.

For the third day in a row, the sluggish front toasted the air-conditioning-impaired, ignited thunderstorms, cut power and choked the Baltimore area with hazardous levels of air pollutants. Intense, scattered storms cleansed the air and temporarily lowered temperatures to the upper 70s in some areas. But the heat was expected to return today.

Typically, westward-creeping high pressure systems get bogged down along the East Coast only "a few times a year, if then," Mr. Wagner said. "And it seems to be most common in late summer when you get into the hurricane season."

No hurricanes are in sight, he added. But less drastic relief may be creeping up on us.

The rise in temperatures in the Baltimore area sputtered to a halt just short of triple digits yesterday, slightly lower than expected. "They got up to 97 at the airport and just 95 in the city," said Fred Davis of the National Weather Service at Baltimore-Washington International Airport. "It's funny to say, 'just 95,' isn't it?"

The records for the date were 99 at the airport and 100 in the city, both set in 1991.

Mr. Davis said the unexpected development of cloudy skies and thunderstorms in Central Maryland cooled things off slightly. Temperatures may not rise beyond 90 over the next couple of days, he said.

Good thing, too. Grumpy callers, he said, were demanding to know if the heat wave was going to last until Labor Day. "Is it going to stay this way all summer?" he asked rhetorically. "Historically, it has never stayed this way all summer."

For the third day in a row, high ozone levels led the Maryland Department of the Environment to issue a "code red" health advisory for the Baltimore area. Officials warned people with heart or respiratory ailments, children and the elderly to reduce outdoor activity.

During a heat wave, sunlight cooks the nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds from auto exhaust and other sources, creating ozone.

State officials urged people to take mass transit, use car pools and otherwise limit driving. Homeowners were asked not to use nTC gas mowers.

Code red conditions were predicted again for today.

Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. said the wind from thunderstorms knocked out power to almost 94,000 customers at one time or another yesterday, including 36,700 in Howard County, where the storms were fiercest. By 6 a.m. today, power was still out to about 9,000 customers, with restoration expected this afternoon.

Mr. Wagner said that by early next week the region's high-pressure system is expected to meander west, allowing cooler air from Hudson's Bay and eastern Canada to spill into the Middle Atlantic states.

After that, the National Weather Service is calling for more typical seasonal weather: stretches of hot days followed by cooler periods. By late July and August, Mr. Wagner warned, things are expected to get hot and sticky again.

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