Summer swelter sizzles state Heat and humidity expected to continue for a couple of days.


National Weather Service forecaster Amet Figueroa summed up the weather, which yesterday reached a record-tying 104 degrees, just this simply: "This has been a real bummer."

His forecast was even simpler: "Ditto."

"It will be hazy, hot and humid for at least a couple more days," Figueroa said. After yesterday's 104, the highs today were to be near 100 degrees, with more of the same due tomorrow.

It was already 94 degrees downtown at mid-morning today.

However, an extended forecast issued today titled "relief in sight" said there is a chance for showers and thunderstorms Wednesday with highs dropping to the lower 90s. The forecasts for Thursday and Friday are "partly cloudy, not as hot and less humid" with temperatures in the 80s.

Temperatures in downtown Baltimore bubbled up past 100 yesterday for the third time this year, reaching the 104 mark at 4:25 p.m., the weather service reported. That tied the record for the date, set in 1930.

It was still 94 degrees at 11 p.m., and never got cooler than 84 in the city overnight.

At the airport, the high yesterday was 101 degrees, one degree short of the record for the date at BWI, set in 1957.

It also was 101 degrees at Memorial Stadium for the first pitch yesterday afternoon. It was 103 degrees in Waldorf at 5 p.m.; 101 in Frederick and Bel Air; 100 in Hagerstown and Annapolis; 99 in Westminster and Easton.

The heat caused scattered power outages across the region, sent several people to the hospital, contributed to high air-pollution levels, created record-high demand for electricity and forced water officials to order a daytime ban on outdoor water use by anyone tied in to the Baltimore water system.

Two people were listed in guarded condition at Johns Hopkins Hospital yesterday after being admitted with symptoms of heat stroke.

A dispatcher for the Baltimore Fire Department said, "I'm sure the heat is making a lot of people sick or light-headed. I'm not sure of the numbers, though."

Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. spokesman Art Slusark said about 2,000 customers lost power briefly in scattered, heat-related outages. The largest and longest was a daylong blackout that affected 400 customers in West Baltimore.

Slusark said a defective switch gear on Saratoga Street between Gilmore and Mount streets blew at 10 p.m. Saturday due to high heat and demand. By 9 p.m., power was restored to nearly all the affected customers. While the repair crews worked, BG&E; distributed 900 bags of dry ice to residents.

The demand for electricity reached a new record high of 5,478 megawatts at 5 p.m. Friday, eclipsing the old record of 5,477 set in August 1988. BG&E; was forecasting a new demand record for today.

The "Bermuda high" that has dominated the region's weather and locked out desperately needed rain and cooler temperatures "is starting to break down, as a slow-moving frontal system will be approaching Wednesday," Figueroa said.

But the amount of relief on the way remains "iffy."

"These fronts sometimes slow down, [and] when they slow down they lose what energy they have," he said.

The best the front may bring us would be the "relief in sight" extended forecast of temperatures in the 80s Thursday and Friday and lower humidity.

The heat wave stretches north into New England. Providence, R.I., hit 100 yesterday, tying a record set in 1980. Danbury, Conn., reached 103 -- its fifth straight day of 100-degree heat.

It has been a long siege of hot weather in Baltimore, too.

* Today marks the eighth consecutive day of 90-degree-plus weather in downtown Baltimore. It is the seventh such day at BWI, Figueroa said.

* BWI counts an average of 31 days each year with highs of 90 and above. This year, the airport has already counted 35. The total is now 38 days in downtown Baltimore.

* Yesterday was the third day this year with highs of 100 or more downtown. It reached 100 degrees on June 16 and again on June 30. Yesterday was the first 100-plus day this year at the airport.

* The coolest it has been in Baltimore all month was 71 degrees downtown July 5. Last night's low in downtown Baltimore, at 2 a.m., was 84 degrees. The warmest daily low temperature ever recorded in July in Baltimore is 85 degrees. It cooled to 76 at BWI.

* July temperatures through Saturday were averaging 82.9 degrees, 3 degrees above normal for the month.

The air is not just hot. It's also thick with industrial and auto pollutants that, in combination with the heat and sunlight, create ozone, which makes it unhealthful to breathe.

Ozone levels in the Baltimore metropolitan area on Friday and Saturday rose above the national standard level deemed safe for outdoor activities. They were expected to be in the "unhealthful" range again today.

Michael P. Sullivan, spokesman for the Maryland Department of the Environment, said today, "We recommend that people with heart or respiratory problems should reduce their physical activity and stay inside in air conditioning as much as possible."

The high ozone levels "can also cause mild irritation to healthy people," he said. They, too, should limit the amount of outside activity they engage in, "particularly heavy exercise."

The heat, and the drought that has gripped the region since April, is curling the corn and withering the vines in fields and

gardens throughout much of the region.

The demand for water forced Baltimore water officials on Friday to impose a dawn-to-dusk ban on outdoor sprinkling, car washing and pool filling.

The ban applies to anyone on the city water system, including bill-payers in Baltimore, Baltimore County, and parts of Anne Arundel and Howard counties.

There's plenty of water in the city's three reservoirs, they said. But the demand for water for parched gardens throughout the region has outstripped the system's ability to deliver it.

By banning watering during the daylight hours, when the demand is greatest, they hope to assure an adequate supply of water to users at all points on the distribution system.

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