Summer sizzles on--some people love it


At Sandy Point State Park yesterday, it was hot enough to: 1) Swim in the Chesapeake Bay despite the bothersome sea nettles; 2) Shun a suntan in favor of the cooler shade; and 3) Hang out at the concession stand and sip a soda.

"The water feels real nice on a day like this," said Theresa Franey, a part-time Catonsville housekeeper who took the afternoon off to escort her three children to the park. "I don't mind hot days really, but every little breeze helps."

In what has become a summer of sizzle in Maryland, yesterday's 90-plus-degree temperatures didn't seem so bad, at least not with a respectable 10-mile-an-hour breeze and a still-comfortable level of humidity.

Or maybe it's that people are getting used to it. The temperature hit 97 degrees in Baltimore yesterday, the 20th day since June 1 of temperatures above 90, according to Fred Davis, a National Weather Service forecaster at Baltimore-WashingtonInternational Airport.

The Baltimore area has an average of 25 days during June, July and August of above 90 readings. And judging from the forecast, that average could be surpassed by Sunday, just a little more than half way through July.

Hazy, hot and humid, Mr. Davis said. With a chance of showers Saturday and Sunday night.

Although a forecast like that may sound like a reason to stay indoors near the air conditioner, some people can't wait to breathe in those blasts of hot air. They are out there during their lunch hours -- the hottest part of the day -- enjoying every minute of it.

"I love it!" said Jean Booth, a receptionist sitting outside the Towson courthouse at noon yesterday. "I don't care how hot it gets."

Michelle Glover, who was eating lunch outside with her daughter, Sharon, also enjoys basking outside in the warm temperatures.

"It's great," she said of the weather. "But I have to work instead of being outside."

The heat forced Alice Bender tomove her office outdoors because the temperature in the greenhouse where it is usually located was well above 100 degrees. The owner of the Woodstock Farm Nursery in Ellicott City was seated at a round wooden table in a grove of trees late yesterday as she conducted business from a cordless telephone.

"That's one advantage to not having rain," she said with a chuckle.

But the lack of rain has dried up the usual source of water for her plants, a nearby pond fed by storm water, and forced her to use county water.

"We got a note from the water department saying please check your plumbing because your bill is so much higher," Ms. Bender said. "I haven't gotten my bill yet. I'm afraid to find out. All we do is water."

The counselors at the Howard County YMCA summer day camp say they would rather see hot, sunny days than rainy ones.

"Rainy days are not happy days," said assistant camp director Valerie Gauss. The children are cooped upindoors all day if it rains, she said. "I'd rather it be warm than rainy."

And while it has been unusually hot in June and July, that #F shouldn't be taken as some dire global warming warning, said Chet Ropelewski, a weather diagnostic specialist with the National Weather Service.

"It's no way to tell if it's just nature or some long-term trend," Mr. Ropelewski said. That would take years of studying statistics from all over the world, he said.

"There is probably no relationship between global warming -- the heating of the whole surface of the earth -- and the temperature over a couple of months in one particular area," he said.

In Maryland, the weather is "only doing what it is supposed to do," said Marsha Wise, a secretary at the Towson courthouse. "It's supposed to be hot now."

Cooling costs

This summer's sizzling high temperatures could be reflected in home electric bills as residents keep air conditioners running to try to beat the heat.

John A. Metzger, a Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. spokesman, has a few suggestions to help keep a lid on those bills.

* Install a programmable thermostat that turns the air conditioning off at times of the day when no one is home and turns it back on again when it is needed.

* Increase attic insulation to hold the cold air generated by the air conditioner inside.

* Make frequent maintenance checks on the air conditioner to be sure it is operating at peak efficiency.

* Keep draperies on the sunny side of the house closed to reduce the amount of heat that gets in.

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