2 more die in heat wave

Toll reaches 6 in Md. as hot weather eases

August 05, 2006|By FRANK D. ROYLANCE | FRANK D. ROYLANCE,SUN REPORTER

Just as the long heat wave was beginning to ease, state health officials linked yesterday the deaths of two more Marylanders to high temperatures and humidity, bringing the statewide toll to six.

In all, 21 Marylanders have died from heat-related causes since May 30, the authorities said. Seven of the deaths were in Baltimore.

A measure of relief arrived yesterday with the midday passage of a weak "cold" front. There was no rain to go with it, but at long last the heat, and especially the humidity, abated.

The temperature at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport reached a mere 93 degrees at 3:39 p.m., after three days at or near 100. Better still, the winds shifted to the north, and dew points - a measure of humidity - fell from the 70s to the 60s, a range where the air doesn't feel so sticky.

The forecast called for weekend highs again near 90, but with much more comfortable humidity.

"The heat indices will be much lower," said meteorologist John Darnley at the National Weather Service forecast office in Sterling, Va. "That in itself will be a relief, and people will feel like it's cooler."

As for the continuing readings near 90, Darnley said, "People just have to be aware it's still summer, and we're still going to have some warmer days ahead of us."

The latest hot-weather fatalities included a 65-year-old Howard County man who died Wednesday and an 87-year-old woman who died Thursday in Baltimore.

"Both had cardiovascular diseases complicated by hyperthermia," said John Hammond, a spokesman for the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

The victims' names were not released, and Hammond said he had no information on the circumstances of their deaths.

Yesterday was the ninth-straight day that Baltimoreans have had to endure temperatures in the 90s or 100s. The 93-degree high at BWI matched the high downtown at the Maryland Science Center.

On Monday, temperatures might reach the 90s again, but the rest of the week promises to hold closer to the average for this time of year - 87 degrees.

That will make it hard to cool off in the Chesapeake Bay. The water temperature yesterday at Sandy Point State Park was 86 degrees.

Lower temperatures yesterday took the heat off the region's electric utilities, which had struggled to keep up with the cooling demands of 51 million consumers in 13 states and the District of Columbia.

Locally, BGE customers set successively higher consumption records three days in a row, topping out Thursday at 7,202 megawatts. Utility managers appealed to customers to turn up their thermostats and conserve power during the hottest period of the day.

At the PJM Interconnection, which manages the generation and distribution of electricity from Chicago to New Jersey and south to North Carolina, power demands reached 144,796 megawatts across the grid Wednesday, a record.

But the advance of cooler temperatures doused the demand for power. Grid managers expected yesterday's total to hold at 128,000 megawatts so the consortium canceled its appeal for energy conservation.

For all its misery, the heat wave produced only one new record here. Tuesday's high of 100 degrees at BWI broke the 99-degree record set for the date in 1933, the weather service reported. And the matching high of 100 degrees on Thursday tied a record set in 1931.

And, as nasty as it was, this tiresome nine-day stretch paled in comparison with heat waves of relatively recent memory.

In August 2002, the region suffered through 11 consecutive days of temperatures that reached 90 to 99 degrees.

And back in late July and August of 1988 - a year farmers remember for its terrible drought - the airport recorded 21 days in a row with readings of 90 or higher.

frank.roylance@baltsun.com

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