Another scorching day, another stifling night

Oppressive conditions prompt prediction of weather fatalities

Record 102 high yesterday

July 07, 1999|By Rafael Alvarez | Rafael Alvarez,SUN STAFF

And the heat goes on.

High temperatures continued to roast the northeastern and mid-Atlantic United States yesterday, with a record high of 102 degrees set in Baltimore at 5 p.m., heat indexes reaching 115 degrees across Maryland, no rain in the forecast, and the state medical examiner's office predicting that the weather would prove fatal before the week is out.

"We are anticipating deaths," said Dr. David Fowler, deputy medical examiner for Maryland. "We are hoping they will be very few."

Two heat-related deaths were reported in Washington. Fowler said it typically takes up to two days for heat problems such as dehydration to take effect. He called the next few days critical.

"This is the most dangerous period, when it stays hot at night," he said, urging people to drink plenty of water and fruit juices and to find cool places to rest.

Baltimore letter carrier Harvey Bennett, 49, worked with that advice yesterday, filling up on cold water before he went out to deliver mail in Pimlico.

"Slow down," he advised. "Pace yourself."

Yesterday's city high was recorded at the Maryland Science Center, according to the National Weather Service. A new Baltimore-Washington International Airport record of 101 degrees yesterday broke the previous high of 98 set in 1988.

Low temperatures in Baltimore were not expected to get below a muggy 80 degrees last night, with things not much cooler in the suburbs and the far reaches of northern Baltimore County dropping to the low 70s, the weather service said.

Even the typically cooler mountain climes of Cumberland hit 99 degrees yesterday.

Highs for the rest of the week should be in the low to mid-90s, said meteorologist Howard T. Silverman of the weather service in Sterling, Va., thanks to a "cold front" moving drier air through the area from New York state. The normal Baltimore average is 87 degrees for this time of year.

While extreme heat often brings out the worst in people, it brought out the best in a couple of listeners to the Robert Dallas morning show on gospel station WWIN-AM yesterday.

Listener Lillian Britt bought 85-year-old Rosa Lee Capers of Southwest Baltimore an air conditioner after Capers -- who suffered heat stroke in late June -- called WWIN to ask for prayers to help her survive the heat.

After Dallas broadcast news of Britt's generosity, an East Fayette Street minister named Donald Smith called to say that he would install the air conditioner.

"I was dying because I could not get any air," said Capers, who lives in an apartment in the 4600 block of Old Frederick Road.

Because most local retailers were sold out of air conditioners as the heat wave rolled into its fourth day, WWIN arranged to have one delivered to Capers from out-of-state this morning. One small fan in Capers' kitchen -- provided by one of her children after the station broadcast her plight, according to Dallas -- was all she had for relief.

Capers said she would trust God to get her through the night.

More than 3,000 pounds of free ice helped 37,939 fans at the Baltimore Orioles-Toronto Blue Jays game get through nine innings of baseball at Camden Yards last night, with Aramark Refreshment Services distributing it in cups.

By the top of the fifth inning -- with Toronto leading 2-1 -- 11 people, ages 4 to 60, were treated at stadium first-aid stations for a variety of heat-related problems.

As hot as it's been -- with the Baltimore Fire Department dispatching 450 ambulances a day for heat-related problems and the city's summer school programs canceled yesterday -- the continuing weather crisis in Maryland remains chronic drought.

The U.S. Geological Survey is comparing the current drought in Maryland to those in the mid-1960s, which remain among the worst on record. All of Maryland is in a condition of severe to extreme drought.

Precipitation at BWI during the past 13 months has totaled just 27 inches, more than 17 inches less rain than normal.

Ground water levels throughout Maryland and Delaware are near or below the lowest June levels recorded during the mid-1960s.

"There is not a lot of hope for any relief," said a statement released by the weather service. "It is critical to have a surplus of rainfall from winter to get us through the summer. We don't have that surplus this year."

At Towson State University, groundskeepers irrigated more than 470 children at the Camp Bravo summer day camp with hoses normally used to water campus lawns. Camp officials called off lacrosse and other field activities in favor of sitting in the shade or running through the hoses' spray.

"It's better than sitting home watching TV," said 10-year-old Julia Kachay. "Now we're going to eat Popsicles."

Although frozen confections were not on official lists of survival tips, local health officials advised dressing in loose-fitting, light-colored clothing, and staying out of the sun. Alcohol is not recommended as a beverage and meals should be light -- such as fresh fruit and salads -- and not foods that require ovens.

Doctors at Johns Hopkins Children's Center warned parents that infants with heat exhaustion should be treated differently than adults -- instead of water, babies in distress should be given formula or mother's milk.

For only the fourth time in the past 30 years, the Eastern Shore's largest utility -- the Delaware-based Connectiv -- began cutting electricity yesterday in a series of rotating blackouts aimed at protecting generating capacity stretched to the limit by the heat.

Even the cows went indoors.

"They were standing around with their tongues hanging out," said Taneytown dairy farmer John Few, who took pity on his suffering animals, herding them into a shed and blasting them with a bank of fans.

Staff writers Tim Craig, Dan Thanh Dang, LaQuinta D. Dixon, Chris Guy, Richard Irwin, Sandra McKee, Joe Nawrozki, Frank D. Roylance, Jennifer Sullivan, Jamie Stiehm and Neal Thompson and the Associated Press contributed to this article.

Pub Date: 7/07/99

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