Mercury hits 104 in city no relief seen until Thursday AND THE HEAT GOES ON


If you liked yesterday's record heat, then you're in for a treat today . . . and tomorrow . . . and maybe even Wednesday.

How hot was it? The thermometer topped out at a blistering 104 degrees in downtown Baltimore at 4:25 p.m., matching the record for the date set in 1930.

Even as the sun was closing in on the horizon at 8 o'clock last night, the mercury was holding at 98 degrees.

It was so hot that one East Baltimore ice cream shop reported a 50 percent decline in business -- during the hottest part of the day.

"Every time the temperature goes above 95, nobody goes out from their cool, air-conditioned rooms," said Moe Pater-Rov, who manages a Baskin-Robbins store on Eastern Avenue.

Yesterday's scorcher was the 37th day this year that the temperature reached 90 degrees or better. The average number of days over 90 degrees is 31, said Bob Melrose, a forecaster with the National Weather Service at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

Temperatures around the state were not quite as high as in Baltimore, but then, they were not much lower, either. Waldorf had a high of 103 degrees yesterday, Bel Air and Frederick had highs of 101 degrees, and Hagerstown and Pikesville just reached 100 degrees. Even Garrett County, often much cooler than the rest of the state, recorded temperatures in the mid-90s.

The culprit is a high pressure system sitting off the Southeast coast, which is causing hot, humid air to flow up from the Gulf of Mexico. The system is moving slowly to the South Atlantic, and relief is on the way in the form of a cold front currently located in the Northern and Northeastern states.

The relief is moving toward Baltimore but probably will not get here until Thursday, Mr. Melrose said.

"It will take the heat out, take the haze away," he said. Wednesday will be a transitional day, and by Thursday, the temperature should be in the 80s.

"Everybody will wake up Thursday and say, 'Wow, it's over,' " Mr. Melrose said.

Meanwhile, the hot, hazy and humid weather will continue, with the only prospect of relief being a chance of scattered thunderstorms.

The heat wave has already caused Baltimore area residents some inconvenience. On Friday, public works officials announced a temporary ban on daytime outdoor water use in order to maintain a steady water pressure level.

For some West Baltimore residents, the misery was compounded by a power failure. The Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. provided 11,000 pounds of dry ice to many of the 400 customers affected by the outage.

Utility spokesman Art Slusark said a failure in underground switching equipment caused the outage that affected residences and businesses near West Saratoga Street, just west of Martin Luther King Boulevard, about 10 p.m. Saturday. Most power was restored by 7 o'clock last night.

Power consumption for BG&E;'s approximately 1 million customers yesterday reached a peak of 5,176 megawatts at 6 p.m., which Mr. Slusark called a very heavy load for a weekend. when most industry is closed.

On Friday, the peak of 5,478 megawatts at 5 p.m. set a new power consumption record.

Area residents flocked to pools and beaches yesterday to keep cool.

"We had an unbelievable day today," said Susan Abrams, a cashier at the Oregon Ridge lake in Baltimore County. The lake reached its capacity of 500 people at 1:25 p.m., and customers who wanted to get in had to wait in line for others to leave.

At the Middleton Tavern in Annapolis, manager Bob Harrison said most customers were opting for light fare, such as sandwiches and salads, and were staying away from hot, heavy entrees.

The establishment also served 20 gallons of iced tea -- about double the norm.

Mr. Harrison also noticed this oddity: "We have an outdoor cafe, and nobody is sitting out there."

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