These dog days of summer aren't making anyone pant August in Baltimore is a cool departure from sweltering norm

August 14, 1996|By Rafael Alvarez | Rafael Alvarez,SUN STAFF

As day broke over Baltimore yesterday, city streets were wind-swept, dark and wet. From morning rush hour till well after lunch, people walked with heads down, sidestepping puddles. Women held tight to their skirts and umbrellas were raised against skies washed a chilly gray.

This is what passes for the dog days of summer this summer.

Tomatoes are more green than red, utility companies have yet to beg the public to conserve energy, and while temperatures have been pleasant compared to the typical August oven, it sure is weird.

"My thermometer says 74 degrees at 2 o'clock in the afternoon on August 13 -- unbelievable!" cried David Klein, a Woodberry cabinet maker. "This has been such a strange summer, so any day can be as strange as any other. Look around, everything is emerald green. When in your memory have you seen the colors we're seeing now? In August? Not in Baltimore."

After a night of long, hard rains that measured nearly an inch and a half, yesterday's metro area high was only 75 degrees, a whopping 30 degrees cooler than the hottest Aug. 13 on record in 1988. Yesterday's low was 63 degrees, off the record set in 1986 of 45 degrees.

"It's beautiful, nothing wrong with it," said Nilo Vidi, a knife grinder sharpening blades in Gardenville yesterday. "It's a little wet, but when you got temperatures in the 70s and 80s in August, you're doing pretty good."

It wasn't so good for Baltimore Gas & Electric Co., which usually realizes about half of its profits in the third quarter. "Last summer was our hottest summer on record," said a company spokesman. "Compared to a normal summer, revenues are off this year."

Down the road in Washington, yesterday marked the 27th day in a row in which summer temperatures did not crack 90 degrees.

Said National Weather Service meteorologist Chris Strong: "It's cool from North Carolina up through New York." The cause, he said, is a combination of low pressure and rain combined with "a swirl of northeasterly winds bringing cool air from the north and moisture from the ocean."

And so, instead of broiling Baltimore with days where people seek relief in bathtubs filled with ice water, the swirl brought weather by which to sit under a skylight and read melancholy verse.

"I don't know what it's all about, maybe it's because of the blizzard, but this is the strangest weather I can remember," said Marion Bedingfield, a city arborist. "We have an annual summer show downtown and the trees we plant now usually die. I have a good feeling they're going to make it this year -- there hasn't been enough heat to burn 'em up."

Usually by this time, he said, supervisors have given parks crews the annual safety talk about heat stroke and how to avoid it.

"We haven't had to give that speech yet," said Bedingfield.

They won't have to give it today either, with forecasts calling for patchy fog in the morning before the sun comes out for a high between 75 and 85 degrees. "There are no 90-degree days on the horizon," said meteorologist Strong.

"I'm from Vermont, so this is just another summer day in Vermont," said Robert McClintock, a photographer living in Bolton Hill.

Anyone who has experienced any other Baltimore summer knows that it's not going to be this way for long.

"It felt like summer was already over" yesterday, said Bedingfield. "But I imagine we're going to have a real tough September. We're due."

Pub Date: 8/14/96

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