Heat wave melts a record

BWI registers102 as Northeast swelters in stifling humidity

Some relief due tonight

Highs of 100 to 105 expected to drop into 90s tomorrow

July 06, 1999|By Jennifer Sullivan and Brenda J. Buote | Jennifer Sullivan and Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

Maryland's miserable heat wave -- with triple-digit temperatures statewide yesterday and a high of 102 degrees seared into the record books at Baltimore-Washington International Airport -- will continue today.

Today's forecast calls for hazy sunshine, stifling humidity and temperatures ranging between 100 and 105 degrees.

The heat index, a measure that combines air temperature and humidity to give an indication of how hot it feels, is expected to hit 115 degrees. The average early summer high temperature in Baltimore is 87 degrees.

The National Weather Service posted heat advisories from the Mississippi Valley to the East Coast, warning of heat indexes of 110 and above.

"A cold front, if you can call it that, will be pushing through [tonight] and Wednesday," said Dewey Walston, a NWS meteorologist in Sterling, Va.

"It won't be cool, but temperatures will be closer to normal."

Tonight's lows -- possibly accompanied by a thundershower -- will be near 80 degrees.

The National Weather Service forecast highs in the 90s for the rest of the week.

Record temperatures hit the East Coast yesterday.

The previous July 5 record at BWI was 100 degrees, set in 1990. In Portland, Maine, 94 degrees became the new high; a record 101 degrees broiled New York City and 100 degrees was reached in Bridgeport, Conn. Philadelphia tied its previous record of 100 degrees.

It was so hot in Baltimore that polar bears at the city zoo kept cool with Popsicles made of peanuts and fruit frozen in blocks of ice.

Around Maryland, neighborhoods became ghost towns as people flocked to malls, movies, bars and restaurants -- anywhere air-conditioned.

The state Department of the Environment issued a "code red" air-quality alert, advising those with heart or respiratory problems to limit outdoor activities.

A poll of local hospitals by midafternoon turned up only one person seeking treatment for heat-related problems. The patient was treated at Johns Hopkins Hospital and released.

Air quality is expected to remain unhealthy today.

A Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. spokeswoman said yesterday that current electric generation capacity is sufficient to meet demand and encouraged customers to use their air conditioners to keep cool.

While most people in the metropolitan area found solace in air-conditioned homes, others kept cool at the local pool or hosing each other in the yard.

Instead of taking their children into Patterson Park to swim at the municipal pool there, a quartet of Butchers Hill mothers set up an inflatable pool in front of their Bradford Street rowhouses near Winterling Court.

Eight-year-old Kristy Watson took a deep breath, sprinted to the edge of the 2-foot-deep, $34.75 BJ's Wholesale Club kiddie pool and tucked her legs into a cannonball, landing in the middle with a great splash.

Every year for the past four years, Liz Gassaway and her neighbors have set up a pool in front of their Bradford Street alley homes off Fleet Street. This year's model is filled every morning and used all day long.

"We do this every day," said Gassaway, sitting in a lawn chair as the kids frolicked in the aqua-and-white-striped vinyl pool.

At Swan Lake Swim Club in North Baltimore, a crowd of more than 350 did the same.

"Tempers are high and the lifeguards are tired," said swim instructor Bebe Serro, noting that business showed no signs of slowing as the dinner hour approached.

"We're just as crowded -- if not more crowded -- than yesterday."

A typical weekday, Serro said, draws about 50 people.

Business along Annapolis' tourist waterfront suffered from the heat, with the idea of leisurely strolls out of the question.

The weather proved more troublesome for cars and trucks. According to the Maryland Transportation Authority, several vehicles overheated on the state's highways yesterday, keeping police, local mechanics and AAA busy.

West Baltimore mechanics Earl Boston and Irvin Best said their shop was busier yesterday than normal, but the temperature inside their garage was so ghastly that they closed early.

By 3 p.m., AAA of Maryland had logged 782 calls for service -- more than half for overheated engines.

The Maryland Transportation Authority reported that 32.5 million people traveled state highways over the holiday weekend, with traffic leaving Ocean City building as last night wore on.

To prevent high ozone levels, the environment department asked people not to cut their grass with gas-powered mowers.

It also suggested that motorists limit driving, use public transportation, share rides and combine errands into one trip.

South Baltimore's Fran Allen, 39, was doing that yesterday as she bought groceries and rented videos at Southside Plaza at Fort Avenue and Lawrence Street near Locust Point. "I'm doing the best I can," she said.

Elsewhere in the nation, two young children died of heat exposure in cars over the Fourth of July holiday while playing with their siblings.

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