A retreat from heat might be on the way

August 15, 2005|By Josh Mitchell | Josh Mitchell,SUN STAFF

You can turn down the air conditioning now - just a little.

After four scorching days, temperatures in the Baltimore area will likely stay in the 80s today - ending what could be summer's final heat wave, the National Weather Service says.

"We should start cooling off," said Brian Guyer of the regional weather service office in Sterling, Va. - an outlook that will cheer up people who have had to spend time outdoors or, as in the Canton neighborhood yesterday, cope with the heat without electricity.

As of 3 p.m. yesterday, Sabrina Vineberg and her neighbors in the 3000 block of S. Elliott St. had gone a full day without power. For her and her husband, Eric Nathanson, it was a particularly bad time because his parents were visiting from Boston.

"It's rather unpleasant," Vineberg, 28, said outside her rowhouse.

After several calls to Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. on Saturday night, the couple decided to stay at a hotel. She said they couldn't find rooms in Baltimore, so they ended up at a hotel in White Marsh - the couple and Nathanson's parents each getting a room for $129.

As Vineberg spoke yesterday, neighbor Marcy Sagel stopped in her sedan.

"Are you still without electricity too?" Sagel asked.

Sagel said she spent a restless Friday night in her muggy home in the 3000 block of O'Donnell St., and was on her way to a friend's air-conditioned home in hopes of catching up on her sleep.

As she drove away, Vineberg and Nathanson headed off to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - in a cool movie theater.

BGE spokesman Rob Gould said the problem in Canton was caused by a faulty cable, and power to the area was restored at 7:47 p.m.

There were other areas where power outages added to weather misery - but electrical failures were sporadic, not widespread. As of 8:30 p.m. yesterday, 1,164 customers in Baltimore were without power, according to BGE.

In Anne Arundel County, where BGE has more than 225,000 customers, fewer than 200 lacked power last night. In Baltimore County, about 80 customers couldn't turn on their lights and air conditioners, in a county where BGE has more than 360,000 customers.

But Gould acknowledged, "It's a lousy day for it to happen."

No one could turn off the heat outside yesterday.

The city Fire Department canceled fire drills and other nonessential outdoor activities.

"We don't put our people out in that environment because, obviously, should the need arise that they have to respond to an emergency, they're not already overheated," said Battalion Commander Joseph Brocato.

Guyer, of the National Weather Service, warned that it will still be humid today but said it won't be as bad as yesterday, when the high of 94 degrees combined with the humidity produced a heat index making it feel like 102 degrees.

More cloudiness expected today will keep the temperatures a little cooler, with highs in the upper 80s and a chance of showers and thunderstorms.

This summer has been the hottest since 2002, with the average temperature of 76.6 degrees a degree above normal, Guyer said.

He said there likely will be only a few more 90-degree days this summer.

Sun staff writer Gus G. Sentementes contributed to this article.

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