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Showers do little to ease swelter Relief from heat and humidity still several days away.


It was another day in the fiery furnace today, as Marylanders sweated and gasped their way through a second day of near-100-degree misery and began a second week under unrelenting highs of 90 degrees or more.

The mercury was oozing around in the upper 90s in downtown Baltimore today before a shower around 12:30 p.m. dropped the mercury to 93 degrees.

"You say, 'Thank God,' but it doesn't extend much further than your window," said Fred Davis, chief meteorologist for the National Weather Service at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

"They'll pop up here and there, but mostly they won't pop up," he said. But they "might, in fact, keep us from getting to 100 degrees."

Some of today's clouds and haze also delivered light rain showers in the Westminster area, but it was all far too little to ease the drought.

After a warm, muggy night no cooler than the mid-70s to near 80, there is more of the same in store for tomorrow -- highs near 100, with a somewhat better chance of a thunderstorm.

More relief is in sight. The extended forecast issued today 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.

Yesterday, temperatures in downtown Baltimore bubbled up past 100 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 it 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.

Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. spokesman John Metzger said about 6,200 customers lost power briefly in scattered, heat-related outages after 5 a.m. today.

Some 400 BG&E; customers in West Baltimore endured up to 23 hours without power for fans, refrigerators and air conditioners over the weekend.

BG&E; spokesman Art 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 "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," forecaster Amet 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.

bTC 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 pollut

ants 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, officials said. But the demand for water for parched gardens throughout the region climbed to 388 million gallons a day on Friday. The demand was unrelenting and threatened to outstrip the system's ability to deliver it. The city delivers 300 million gallons on a normal July day.

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