'Lord have mercy, it's hot'

Maryland scrambles to stay cool as heat wave continues

June 09, 2008|By Stephanie Desmon and Rona Marech | Stephanie Desmon and Rona Marech,SUN REPORTERS

It was too much to bear going outside Saturday, what with the air suddenly thick like soup and nearly as hot, so 29-year-old Matthew Urso stayed inside, plopped on the couch watching television all day, except when he took a break to take a nap.

So yesterday, he knew he needed to do something. In what seemed like the opposite extreme, the downtown Baltimore resident was up early and on his bicycle, riding a 20-mile circuit through the city. His concession to the heat?

"We had talked about doing a 30-mile," Urso said, "but we voted on 20 because it was so hot."

An early June heat wave continued for another day yesterday, as highs hit 93 at BWI and 96 downtown. With the humidity factored in, it felt like it was about 100.

There is no relief in sight until Wednesday, forecasters say, when a cool front will send afternoon highs into the mid- to upper 80s, still above the low 80s average for this time of year.

The calendar still officially says spring, after all.

"I don't like this weather, either," said Brian LaSorsa, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sterling, Va. He said a strong high pressure system is keeping cooler air from the north from pushing into Maryland.

At St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson, the emergency department was busy with about 10 patients who were treated for heat exhaustion. Most of them were athletes competing in the Special Olympics being held down the street at Towson University.

Dr. Kit Lorentz, an emergency physician at St. Joseph, said the heat-related illnesses had a twofold cause: physical exertion coupled with high heat that came on fairly suddenly.

"It takes your body a couple of weeks to really acclimate to heat," he said. The weather comes as a stark contrast to the cool and rainy weather that has marked the spring up until now.

The city's housing department set up six cooling centers across Baltimore, and by 3 p.m. nearly 75 people had stopped by the one at the Northern Community Action Center in the Govans neighborhood for free cold water and to rest on chairs in the air-conditioned lobby.

A couple folks who had walked long distances in the heat were "in a bad way," said Peggy Peacock, who was handing out bottles of water.

Peacock said she planned to help out for a few hours and then go home, sit in her cool basement, read the newspaper and relax. She had seen a neighbor cutting grass that morning and could only shake her head.

"Lord have mercy, it's too hot," she said. "You don't cut grass in this heat."

Greg Paul, 45, had been in his air-conditioned home all day, but in the early afternoon he was headed to the store for milk and bread. He was lured into the cooling center for a bottle of water.

The trick to staying cool is staying inside, he said, although he contends that after 20 years in construction he is inured to bad summer weather. "The heat really don't bother me," he said. "I'm so used to it."

Joseph Barnes, 20, was out and about because he can't stand being "cooped up in the house."

He downplayed the heat.

"It's not that hot for me," he said. "When it's winter, people complain that it's too cold and they want it to be hot. When it's summer they complain that it's too hot. I'm just very satisfied. You've gotta be appreciative."

Down the street, takers began lining up at 9:30 a.m. for snowballs in flavors including egg custard, watermelon, cotton candy and mango. Reena Louis, whose mother owns the York Road stand, was helping out. She had already helped herself to five pineapple cherry cones.

"I've been sneaking," she said. "Shhh!"

At Carroll Park, in the southwest corner of Baltimore, photographer Chris Hartlove had just finished a dozen-mile bike ride along the Gwynns Falls Trail with his son Win, 7.

"He's never ridden that far before," Hartlove said, proudly. "He only fell off three times," he added as Win showed off his new leg scrapes.

They got out and back before the heat got too intense. "It wasn't too bad," he said.

And, with that, the duo took off for a more sensible activity.

They were headed to the pool.

stephanie.desmon@baltsun.com

rona.marech@baltsun.com

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