Another scorching day brings different strokes for cooling off

Relief is due today with cold front

June 12, 2000|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

By midmorning yesterday, Kevin Jones had caught about a dozen small crabs. But the 29-year-old warehouse worker from Park Heights was determined to stick it out, sweating under a blistering sun, until he caught at least a half-bushel.

"There's enough now to make a meal for one man, unless he gets greedy," Jones said, "but I'll probably stay out here for another hour. It's a nice thing to do. Keeps me out of trouble."

Most people weren't as willing to brave the hazy, humid heat that gripped the mid-Atlantic region for a third consecutive day. Around Baltimore, neighborhood streets were empty as people flocked to malls, movie theaters, bars and restaurants - anywhere to keep cool.

Maryland is expected to get relief today, as high temperatures are slated to top out in the mid-80s.

"A weak cold front will be moving through the area in the evening," said Michelle Margaf, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sterling, Va. "Temperatures will drop to the upper 60s overnight as thundershowers move through the area."

The temperature reached 95 degrees at 4:34 p.m. yesterday at Baltimore-Washington International Airport. That was 4 degrees short of the record of 99 degrees for the date, set in 1911.

The heat index -- a measure that combines the temperature and humidity to reflect how hot it feels - reached 98 degrees.

A few found solace on local waterways - boating, fishing and swimming.

"We're [going to] do some fishing and relax," said Ronald L. Walker of Ashburn in Northwest Baltimore, who was waiting to launch his 14-foot boat into the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River. "The line's not bad today - took less than 10 minutes to get on the water - and once you get out on the water, the breeze is wonderful."

Near Sandy Point State Park, more than 600 people competed in the Great Chesapeake Bay Swim yesterday. Sean Brennan, 26, of Forked River, N.J., won the 4.4-mile race for the second consecutive year, with a time of 1 hour, 26 minutes, 42 seconds. The female winner was Susie Rabiah, 33, of Shaker Heights, Ohio. She finished the March of Dimes fund-raising event in 1:40:43.

The stifling heat proved irksome for drivers. By noon yesterday, AAA Mid-Atlantic had logged 400 calls from motorists in Maryland - most of them reporting overheated engines. On Saturday, the auto club reported 1,300 calls - double the number it typically receives in a 24-hour period.

For the past three days, airborne pollutants and temperatures in the mid-90s prompted the Maryland Department of the Environment to issue "Code Red" air-quality alerts, advising people with heart and respiratory problems to restrict outdoor activities.

According to volunteers across the state, water quality was also poor in some areas. More than 30 volunteers spent the afternoon at "wade-ins" on local tributaries measuring water clarity, an important factor in sustaining submerged aquatic vegetation.

"It's worse than I thought it would be," said Guy W. Hager of the Parks and People Foundation. He was testing the water at the public dock near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in South Baltimore. "I can only see about 2 feet down. I expected it would be at least 3 feet."

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