It's the heat AND the humidity

No Records, But Little Relief In Sight Soon

With region trapped under stagnant conditions, highs will stay in the 90s

August 08, 2007|By Frank D. Roylance and Nicole Fuller | Frank D. Roylance and Nicole Fuller,SUN REPORTERS

Maryland's midsummer slog through simmering heat and soaking humidity dragged on yesterday with only a meager hint of relief in the forecast.

"It's a relatively stagnant pattern, with no strong fronts to help alleviate the situation," said meteorologist Francis Kredensor at Penn State Weather Communications in State College, Pa. "It's just the summertime doldrums."

We should see more of the same today, with a forecast high around 97 degrees at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. The record high for the date is 99 degrees, set in 1980.

So how hot was it yesterday?

"It was so hot, I couldn't believe it!" said 8-year-old Johnathan Deshaies of Columbia, who was practicing soccer passes at a Howard County park and dousing himself with water.

"It's supposed to be in the 70s in the morning. But it was in the 90s!" he said.

The mercury reached a hazy 95 by afternoon at the airport, short of the 99-degree forecast but miserable enough - the seventh day of 90-plus weather in the past eight. It might be cold comfort, but we've had only 26 days in the 90s so far this summer, compared with 35 days by this time last year.

It was 97 yesterday at the Maryland Science Center and 93 at The Sun's weather station at Calvert and Centre streets, relieved only by a light afternoon breeze off the bay.

So far, August is running about 5 degrees warmer than the long-term average for the airport.

There have been 13 heat-related deaths reported in Maryland this summer, according to the state health department.

With the humidity up, and dew points running above 75 degrees yesterday, heat index readings were between 100 and 105 degrees. The heat index reflects the body's increased difficulty in cooling itself through the evaporation of sweat from the skin when the humidity is high.

Yesterday's Code Red Heat Alert in Baltimore has been extended into today, with 10 cooling centers open across the city. Firefighters have also been making home visits to check on vulnerable residents and educate them about coping with the heat.

The Baltimore Fire Department has responded to 28 calls from residents suffering heat-related illnesses in the past eight days, said Rick Binetti, the department's communications director. There have been no heat-related city deaths.

"I think our efforts are making a difference, in terms of getting the word out to the public," Binetti said. "I think more people are aware that the city is there in some way to help out."

Anyone experiencing symptoms of heat exhaustion or heat stroke - confusion, nausea, light-headedness and high fever with cool, clammy skin - is urged to call 911. Information on the city's cooling centers is available by calling 311.

In Fells Point yesterday, Jason Kavanaugh, 23, and Mike Deruggidro, 18, both of Essex, were mixing mortar at H&S Bakery, where an elevator shaft needed repairs. They said the temperature inside, where they were working near the bread ovens, must have been 130 degrees.

"Inside is where it really gets hot," Kavanaugh said. "We bring a big jug of water every day, and I don't really eat. If I eat food, I don't think I'll be coming back to work."

Added Deruggidro: "There's two little fans, and it blows hot air all around us."

Heat advisories and extreme heat warnings were posted yesterday up and down the East Coast, from New York City to Jacksonville, Fla., across the Deep South and up the Mississippi, Ohio and Missouri river valleys.

Some sample highs: Cincinnati, 97 degrees; St. Louis, 99; Memphis, 95; New Orleans, 93; Atlanta, 97; Raleigh, N.C., 99; Norfolk, 93; Philadelphia, 94; New York, 89.

Blame the jet stream, Kredensor said. "It's been stuck pretty far up in Canada. All the cold air is staying locked up in Canada, and it's not able to get down to us."

Add a high-pressure system sitting over the Eastern U.S. that has delivered lots of sunshine. In recent days that high has drifted to the southeast, drawing warm, soggy air off the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico and pumping it to us from the south and southwest.

"It's getting to the point where we can call it `oppressively' humid," Kredensor said, with dew points above 75 degrees yesterday in Baltimore. Dew points above 70 degrees feel uncomfortably muggy.

As hot as it has been, however, the readings have set no records here.

The record high for Aug. 7 in Baltimore is 105 degrees, set in the middle of a brutal, three-day hot spell in 1918 that saw two 105-degrees marks. That remains the hottest three-day period on record for the city.

"I can't imagine how unbearable that must've been," said meteorologist Andy Woodcock, at the National Weather Service forecast office in Sterling, Va.

Monday's 96-degree weather at Dulles Airport in Northern Virginia did tie a 1977 record for the date there.

As unpleasant as it was yesterday, some people still ventured outdoors voluntarily. In fact, scores of youngsters attended a soccer camp at Centennial Park in Ellicott City.

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