Heat ties 36-year record at BWI

Temperature reaches 100 as storms are expected to cool off region today

July 05, 2002|By Sarah Koenig | Sarah Koenig,SUN STAFF

Here's what Baltimore might remember about 1966: The Orioles won the World Series, and it was really hot on the Fourth of July. How hot? The same swampy, triple-digit, record heat as yesterday: 100 degrees.

Yesterday's high temperature, measured at 3:30 p.m. by the National Weather Service at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, tied the record for the same day in 1966. Combined with yesterday's humidity, human bodies reacted as if it were 105 degrees - a measurement called the heat index.

But if the forecast holds, readers will be cooler by the time this article hits their doorsteps. Meteorologists predicted showers and thunderstorms starting about midnight and lasting until early this morning. The storms were expected to bring gusty winds, hail and heavy rain.

By today, temperatures should be in the lower 90s and the humidity should be swept away. Tomorrow's highs are expected to be in the mid-80s.

All that good news was hard to keep in mind yesterday in Baltimore, where an excessive heat warning was in effect. Officials said that the elderly and children were especially susceptible to heat exhaustion, a potentially fatal condition that occurs when the body's electrolytes become imbalanced from dehydration.

At an early morning Fourth of July parade in Dundalk, 10 people fell victim to heat exhaustion and required medical attention, Baltimore County police said.

The emergency room at Johns Hopkins Hospital saw at least four heat-related cases yesterday, including one involving kidney failure, said Staci Vernick, a hospital spokeswoman. Several other city hospitals reported one or two patients suffering from heat-related problems.

In preparation for another day of stifling temperatures, the city had taken extra precautions. Schedules for city pools were arranged in shifts to make sure everyone would get a chance to cool off. At the Druid Hill Park pool, about 500 children splashed around yesterday, said Vanessa Smith, who had not tested the water herself.

"I've been tempted," she said. "But I'm the cashier, so I have to stay put."

The city housing authority established four "cooling centers" at units for the elderly where anyone in search of air conditioning could sit for an hour. The authority also handed out about 100 free fans, which were snatched up quickly, said spokesman Kevin Brown.

Oppressive heat gripped the Northeast yesterday, as hot and sticky air ushered in another day of sweltering conditions and stressed electricity supplies. A hot air mass in the center of the country was responsible for the heat wave, bringing the Northeast a third consecutive day of temperatures in the 90s.

Before dawn, sightseers in New York's Times Square were rolling up their sleeves and gulping water as the temperature and humidity combined for a heat index, or perceived temperature, of 93 degrees.

"Humid, humid, humid," said LouAnn Veenker of Oklahoma City, who was visiting with her two sisters and a friend. "I'm surprised how hot the streets feel. It feels like they've got furnaces on underneath."

At least four deaths have been blamed on the stifling weather this week in St. Louis and Chicago, and officials said heat contributed to the death of an Ohio construction worker.

Authorities say heat might have contributed to the death of a Frederick County firefighter recruit, who collapsed Wednesday morning at a training facility. Officials are awaiting the results of an autopsy on Andrew James Waybright, 24, of Gettysburg, Pa.

Thousands of power outages were reported Wednesday night as demand peaked, officials said. About 3,800 customers lost power in the New York area as high demand strained the distribution system; about 3,300 households remained without electricity yesterday.

Heat and power problems weren't tough just on humans. At a farm in Lebanon, Conn., where power was out for six hours Tuesday, a backup generator had enough juice to run basic operations - such as the tank to cool milk - but not enough to power the fans that cool the cows, said co-owner Jim Smith. Until the power was restored, farmers sprayed the cattle with water.

"We were a little concerned about how to keep the cows cool," he said.

In New York, the city opened more than 300 cool buildings to people without air conditioning. The city reached a high temperature of 95 amid the shade trees of Central Park, with humidity about 45 percent.

"It's like a sauna," Jenny Fernandez, 26, said as she went fan shopping. "I might as well have gone to work, because it's air-conditioned there."

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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