Temperature reaches 100 in city

air alert issued

Relief to arrive today with highs in upper 80s

July 20, 1999|By Jennifer Sullivan | Jennifer Sullivan,SUN STAFF

Maryland suffered a second consecutive day of searing temperatures and poor air quality yesterday, making being outside a serious health hazard for some residents.

Conditions were expected to improve for the next few days with temperatures dropping below 90 for the rest of the week.

At 4 p.m. yesterday, the high reached 100 at the Maryland Science Center in the Inner Harbor and 98 at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, according to the National Weather Service.

In Baltimore, the heat index -- the combination of temperature and humidity to give an indication of how hot it feels -- reached 106 degrees, the weather service said.

During the past four days, temperatures that reached into the high 90s prompted the Maryland Department of the Environment to issue three "Code Red" health advisories for a total of five this summer. Code Red is the most dangerous air quality advisory.

Under such an advisory, strenuous outside activities should be avoided, and the elderly, children and people with heart ailments and respiratory problems should stay inside.

People also are asked to use public transportation to cut the number of cars on the road. Drivers also should only fuel their cars after dusk to avoid releasing gasoline fumes into the sunlight, officials said. Ground-level ozone is created by a mixture of airborne pollutants, catalyzed by a strong dose of sunlight.

Nitrogen oxides from factory smokestacks and the toxic byproducts of automobile emissions combine on hot days to create ozone, or the haze that often hangs over city horizons on hot summer days.

"When these two components mix in the presence of bright, hot sunshine they are cooked into ozone," said Quentin Banks, spokesman for the state Department of the Environment.

Banks said nearly 600,000 Marylanders with lung problems should avoid the outdoors during Code Red alerts.

Ground-level ozone readings in Maryland are high along the heavily traveled Interstate 95 corridor.

The highest readings in the state are in Anne Arundel, Harford and Cecil counties, Banks said.

The state issues air quality warnings between May and September, judging the air on a scale from green -- the best air -- to red.

This year's five air quality warnings is two more than at this time last year; 14 were issued for all of 1998. The highest number of advisories since the index was created in 1984 was 36 Code Reds in 1986.

The state is issuing a "Code Orange" advisory for today, meaning people who experience difficulty breathing outdoors and those with respiratory and heart problems should limit activities.

The weather service predicted temperatures in the upper 80s for the next few days.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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