State's hot spell arrives on schedule

July 21, 1998|By Frank D. Roylance | Frank D. Roylance,SUN STAFF Staff writers Larry Carson, Heather Dewar, Donna R. Engle, Jon Morgan, Melody Simmons, and Nancy Youssef contributed to this article.

Quit whining, Baltimore.

Sure, it's hot. The National Weather Service has issued urban heat advisories for Charm City. The state health department has urged city residents to slow down and try to stay cool by drinking plenty of fluids and staying where it's shady and cool.

The 90-degree-plus highs and nasty humidity this week will make it feel like it's 100 to 105 degrees in the city. It may even reach 100 actual degrees. And air quality readings probably will sink to unhealthy levels today.

But this is all pretty normal for mid-July in Baltimore, the experts say.

"Good grief, if it doesn't [get hot] now, when is it going to?" said Paul G. Knight, a meteorologist at Pennsylvania State University. "Tell them to get a life and go to Dallas. It's the New Delhi of the United States."

Temperatures in Baltimore have reached the 90s only five days this month. And Marylanders, it appears, are coping nicely.

Female prisoners had their fans running yesterday on the notoriously stifling third floor of Baltimore County's old jail on Bosley Avenue at Towsontowne Boulevard.

At the busy Snoasis snowball stand in Greenspring Station yesterday, Donald Kramer, a retired dentist from Pikesville, treated his granddaughter Jackie Glasser, to a strawberry daiquiri slush, and offered a bit of philosophy.

"The heat is good for the corn and tomatoes -- and that makes life more bearable," he said.

In Taneytown, the municipal water pumps spun overtime over the weekend to meet an added 200,000-gallon daily demand. To spare the pumps, and the underground aquifer that feeds them, the town has imposed a ban on outdoor water use, beginning Thursday.

Older people face more serious risks during heat waves because their bodies grow less adept at regulating their temperature. In Howard County, senior center officials began advising older residents of ways to cool off without air conditioning, and offering places to go that are air conditioned.

Despite the current heat and humidity in Baltimore, this month has been unusually mild and dry.

The high at Baltimore-Washington International Airport yesterday was 92 degrees. Overcast skies averted the mid-90s highs that had been predicted. Daily airport highs have averaged 86.5 degrees in July, just below the normal daily highs of 87 or 88 degrees.

In fact, July temperatures have been mild enough to allow Marylanders to save on their air conditioning bills. The number of cooling degree days, an index of cooling costs, is running almost 18 percent below normal for July.

This week's hot spell is "not atypical," said Jim Laver, deputy director of the weather service's Climate Predictions Center in Camp Springs. "We're not breaking any records here."

The airport hasn't seen a drop of rain since July 8, when 0.88 of an inch fell into the gauge. But summer showers are fickle. The Maryland Science Center recorded nearly two inches of rain on the same date.

It was a bit late in coming, experts said, but blame the heat on that old summertime Bermuda High. The vast high pressure system has finally camped over the United States and expanded slowly eastward. It sprawls now from Bermuda in the east to Texas in the west. And it's spinning the wind currents clockwise.

As the easterly winds blow past the Appalachian mountains and down onto the coastal plain of Maryland and other eastern states, the air compresses and heats up again. "That adds 5 to 8 degrees," Knight said.

The hot air and sunny skies are expected to bring "code red" air pollution today to parts of the Baltimore region. That means ground-level ozone -- smog -- bad enough to violate federal air quality standards and cause problems like shortness of breath and burning eyes, even among healthy people. Children, the elderly and people with heart or lung conditions should limit their time outside.

But even the smog cloud has its silver lining. Meteorologist Bill Ryan, an ozone specialist at the University of Maryland, College Park, said a strong low pressure system over Hudson Bay in Canada on Wednesday will spin off enough of a breeze and clouds across Maryland to blow the worst pollution away, and cut the sunlight needed to form more.

Relief is due by this weekend, Knight said.

Pub Date: 7/21/98

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