August arrives a few months early Above-normal heat spells end to spring


May, the weatherman says, passed Maryland by and took spring with her.

In place of the month of blossoms and breezes, when normal temperatures float in the mid-70s, the dogs of August came to town in a mean pack of 90-degree days and show no immediate sign of leaving.

"It's the same story you get in midsummer, the old Bermuda high sitting off the coast, not moving, building up every day," said Ken Shaver, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service at Baltimore-Washington International Airport. "We've been running 10 to 15 degrees above normal with it for the last several days, going on about a week now. There's been a little breeze every day, fairly high humidity. It's unusual for it to last this long."

Just before 4 p.m. yesterday, the airport temperature reached 92 degrees, breaking a record of 90 set in 1959. It was the sixth day in May on which the mercury hit 90 or better at the airport just south of Baltimore, tying a record set in 1970.

In Anne Arundel County, sweltering students were sent home early to escape the heat.

Yesterday's high in the city was 93, 4 degrees under the 1941 record and the sixth day this month reaching 90 or higher. Baltimore's record for above-90 days in May is nine, which the city suffered in 1970.

"We might end up with nine," said Mr. Shaver. "We've got three days to go, and it's going to be close to 90 each day."

It has been 88 degrees or hotter at the airport since May 22. Downtown, the coolest it has gotten was 86 degrees on May 24.

The early heat wave has caused problems for at least one local businessman, Joseph Ares III, president of Baltimore-Washington Steel Erectors Inc.

"We're just not ready for it yet," said Mr. Ares, whose company is currently putting up the structural steel for a phone company building near Dorsey.

"Our guys build themselves up for the heat little by little, and by the time August comes you're used to being hot. Now you're going out of your mind because it's supposed to be in the 70s this time of year, maybe the 80s," he said. Making matters worse is the material they're working with: long flat decks of sun-reflecting galvanized steel.

"When it gets really hot, we switch our hours and start working at 6 a.m. to beat some of the heat. We usually don't do that until the middle of June, but the guys started a week ago," said Mr. Ares, whose men went home early yesterday. "It feels like August, but it's only May."

Despite what your calendar says, it will be August again today.

"There's a cold front, and it's moving very very slow across New England, we think it might get close to us by the weekend," said Mr. Shaver.

"But it's going to push through very slowly, and our relief in the low- to mid-80s won't be felt until the first part of next week."

And if doesn't get here soon, it'll be summer anyway -- officially on June 21.

"May just kind of passed us by," said Mr. Shaver.

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