July ends with a sizzle

BWI reports a record 22 days exceeding 90 degrees

Over 140 deaths nationally

Heat relief on its way, but water restrictions are likely by midweek

August 01, 1999|By Candus Thomson and Jennifer Sullivan | Candus Thomson and Jennifer Sullivan,SUN STAFF

What's cooking? You are.

The great July bake-off ended yesterday at 99 degrees at BWI -- 14 degrees higher than when the month began. In between were 21 days when temperatures were over 90.

The month had only one record-breaking day -- 102 degrees at Baltimore-Washington International Airport on July 5 -- but July set a record for the number of days exceeding 90.

Relief should arrive this afternoon, as a cold front sweeps down from the upper Midwest. Tomorrow through Thursday look even better, with highs in the 80s instead of the 90s, said John Margraf, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Sterling, Va.

"So we get back to the seasonal normal high temperatures," Margraf said.

Unfortunately, the future promises little in the way of rainfall, which means Maryland residents are likely to be under mandatory water restrictions by midweek.

A task force convened by Gov. Parris N. Glendening will meet tomorrow to draft recommendations for restrictions as the state struggles with its worst drought in 70 years. The list is expected to be forwarded to the governor Tuesday.

Among options being considered are a once-a-week limit on lawn watering, a ban on car washing and a requirement that restaurants serve water only when diners ask for it.

July also ended with another day of unhealthful air. The Maryland Department of the Environment issued a "Code Red" heat advisory, its most severe.

Escaping the heat was easier said than done.

Yesterday morning, a 10 1/2-mile backup clogged the eastbound lanes of Route 50 from Annapolis to the Bay Bridge toll plaza.

But state police in Easton said Eastern Shore traffic was backed up all day on Routes 50, 404 and 313, as thousands traveled to and from Ocean City and Rehoboth beaches.

"It's the usual mess," said Sgt. Steve S. Hamm of the Easton barracks.

State police reported dozens of broken-down or overheated vehicles on Interstates 70 and 68 in Western Maryland.

"You mix 100-degree heat with driving over the mountains and you got a lot of stress on your car," said Sgt. James L. Myers of the Cumberland barracks.

Myers said an elderly woman riding in a car without air conditioning on I-70 near Cumberland was hospitalized with heat sickness.

The weather also took the steam out of the second annual Praise Fest gospel event in Northwest Baltimore.

Last year, about 10,000 people turned out to see national and local performers at the event, sponsored by Baltimore gospel station Heaven 600.

This year, many of the 5,000 in attendance traded places in front of the main stage outside for spots in the air-conditioned Higher Dimensions Christian Center where local bands played.

The heat kept some swimmers away from neighborhood pools. Business was down at the usually busy Swan Lake Swim Club in Northeast Baltimore.

"Last weekend, it was much busier," said George Petrides, assistant pool manager. "I've always found when it's this hot and humid, people stay in the air conditioning."

Around the country, soaring temperatures were blamed for more than 140 deaths since mid-July; one of the most recent was a North Carolina migrant farm worker whose body temperature hit 108 degrees.

Temperatures in the eastern two-thirds of North Carolina reached triple digits for a record-setting eighth time this year. It was the hottest July in New York City history, with temperatures topping 90 for the ninth straight day and the 18th time in the month.

Even in Wisconsin, temperatures climbed above 100.

Sun staff writers Ann Haddad and Tim Craig and wire reports contributed to this article.

Pub Date: 8/01/99

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