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The last four days of 100-degree weather have forced many in the county to stay at home, away from the blistering heat that has brought additional woes for farmers and an extension of the county water ban.

While most residents stayed home with their air conditioners to avoid temperatures that soared to as high as 104 degrees, farmers were faced with yet another round of scorched crops.

"It's been the driest year of my life, and the last few days havejust made it even worse," said County Councilman Charles C. Feaga, who owns a cattle farm off Route 144 in Ellicott City.

Feaga said his own crops have been hurt by the burning temperatures this week. "This is a dry county, and a lot of farmers are being hurt," he said.

County officials announced Monday that the county's water ban -- which prohibits all outdoor use of water between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. -- has been extended until further notice. Any place that receives a county water bill is subject to the ban.

Residents throughout the county have been staying indoors and seem to have adopted the advice thatthere's no place like home -- except for perhaps The Mall in Columbia and the neighboring Columbia Association pools.

Both attracted residents by the thousands this week.

"We've been getting them by the hundreds every day," said Jonathan Wray, the pool manager for the Hawthorn community pool in Hickory Ridge. "The biggest problem is that we've got too many people in the pool. No one wants to sunbathe, because it's too hot."

Many of the approximately 20 Columbia Association pools have been packed throughout the last four days, as has theair-conditioned mall, where the food court was standing room only onMonday.

County businesses didn't see a lot of consumers over the weekend and police report that traffic was extremely light on local roadways.

Even sellers of ice cream have fallen on hard times, since no one wants to wait in line.

"When it's 100 degrees, no one's going to leave their air con

ditioning. We get heavy business when it's about 88 or 89 degrees. After that, we see a drop-off," said Joan Weal, an ice cream vendor at the Forest Motel snack bar in EllicottCity.

At nearby Centennial Park, no one is taking out any of the rental boats, nor are there many that seem to be visiting the park, said Steve Hill, the manager of the boat dock.

"I finally got a customer earlier and it was this lady who wanted to take her grandson out, but they came back after only 10 minutes. They just couldn't take the heat," Hill said.

Many who venture out of their homes have headed for the mall. But the sights there did not include busy shoppers,as few of the patrons carried shopping bags and many stores were empty of customers. Most seemed content to have a snack and relax.

Diane Young, who operates the Small Wonders day-care center in Silver Spring, took 18 children to the mall Monday after they were forced from camp Green Castle in Montgomery County.

The camp has no air conditioning and supervisors asked the day-care center to find a cool place to take the children for a day, Young said. The youths voted to gothe Columbia mall.

Each of the children, ages 7 to 10, waited patiently on the steps of one of the fountains while Young and a partnerplanned the day's agenda.

One 7-year-old girl, Shanique Moore, summed it up by saying, "It's like a desert outside."

Not everyone can take the day off from the heat by staying home or sitting back in an air-conditioned office, however. Among those who have been bearingthe heat are road workers, many of whom were on the job Monday pouring 350-degree asphalt.

"This is the hottest job around. You get heat beating you in the face all day," said Dave Massie of Odenton, whowas pouring asphalt on Centennial Lane for A. G. Parrott contractors. "When I get home, I don't want to do anything but sit in front of an air conditioner."

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