July was hot, but not hottest

90 degrees common, but it was warmer in 17 other years

July 31, 1999|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,SUN STAFF

If you think July was hot, the players on the Dundalk VFW and Parkville senior citizens' softball teams have a name for you: wimp.

Although temperatures at Baltimore-Washington International Airport climbed to 90 or higher on 21 days this month, the players, ranging in age from 64 to 78, were out fielding balls and taking swings three times a week.

"We've felt it, but we're used to it," said Andrew Burgess, 64, as he waited for a turn to bat at a ball field in Towson.

"We're all in good condition and we can handle the weather," agreed Bill Whitesell, also 64. "We believe the TV networks have exaggerated. I personally think they are making us wimps."

So how hot was July really?

A normal July in Baltimore has about 11 days on which temperatures reach 90 or above, according to the Maryland Climatological Data Center. If temperatures climb above 90 today, as expected, this month will have included 22 days of 90-plus temperatures, breaking the record for 90-plus days set in 1988. And the Farmer's Almanac said this month would be cooler and wetter than normal.

Still, National Weather Service forecasters point out, this July was nowhere near the hottest on record. In fact, weather service records show that 17 Julys have been hotter than this one.

As of yesterday, the average monthly temperature this month was just below 80 degrees. The hottest July on record in Baltimore was in 1872, when the average temperature for the month was 81.7 degrees, according to the weather service.

And that was before air conditioning, flip-flops and mocha frappuccino.

Nevertheless, the weather has been stifling and temperatures are expected to continue to climb above 90 until at least Tuesday.

The National Weather Service issued a tornado warning last night. A funnel cloud was spotted about 8 p.m. in Millers in northeast Carroll County, but the storm weakened as it blew into Baltimore County.

Residents in Monkton reported heavy rain. Some areas, including Baltimore, Cockeysville and Hereford, had large-sized hail.

The weather service predicts a high in Baltimore of 98 today and the mid-90s tomorrow, with a chance of afternoon thunderstorms. High temperatures may dip below 90 Tuesday.

Long-range forecasts from the National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center in Washington say temperatures are likely to remain above normal through the first half of next month.

Although the Dundalk and Parkville senior ballplayers say none of them has been overcome by the heat, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene urges caution to reduce the risk of heat stroke and heat exhaustion. It advises drinking plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration and wearing loose-fitting clothes.

The state Medical Examiner's office says 18 people are believed to have died of heat-related illnesses this summer -- 16 of them this month. The victims have ranged from a toddler found in a vehicle to elderly people who died in their homes. Most had serious underlying conditions.

Seven times this month, the hot, stagnant air prompted "Code Red" health advisories, indicating the most dangerous air quality, according to the Maryland Department of the Environment.

Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. reached its all-time high electricity usage on July 6 at 9 p.m. with 6,383 megawatts -- enough to light 63.8 million 100-watt bulbs.

While that is below the company's capacity of 6,565.8 megawatts, BGE repeatedly has resorted to its electricity management program to keep usage in check.

Under the program, electricity users volunteer to have switches installed on their central air conditioning units and water heaters in exchange for a monthly credit on their bills. The switches allow the electric company to turn off the air conditioners and hot water heaters for 15-minute intervals to conserve electricity.

Last summer, the company resorted to the program six times. This month, it has used it nine times. The company generated an average 104,033 megawatts a day this month, compared with 95,106 megawatts a day last July.

No one need tell Bob Gassaway this month was hot. A crewman for Gray & Sons, he was out working in the heat yesterday, helping direct traffic and pour 250-degree asphalt in road repair projects.

"July was atrocious," said the 15-year road construction veteran as he stood sipping a large cup of water while directing traffic around a work site at Towson University.

"I had central air put in my home," he said. "When I go home, it feels like I'm walking into a refrigerator."

Pub Date: 7/31/99

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