Marylanders could only steam at the weather yesterday, as high humidity combined with record-breaking temperatures to produce dangerous conditions.
The hot, heavy air cooked up to 102 degrees at Baltimore-Washington International Airport at 2:20 p.m., shattering a record for the date of 98 degrees set in 1988.
But with humidity exceeding 50 percent, it felt far worse -- with a "heat index" reaching 124 degrees at BWI and perhaps even higher levels in Baltimore, where WBAL-TV recorded a high of 104 degrees at its Television Hill monitoring station.
"I've been here 24 years, and I would have to say I don't remember anything worse," said Amet Figueroa, a National Weather Service forecaster at BWI. "It just has been stifling and oppressive."
For the fourth straight day, the state Department of the Environment reported unhealthy air quality with a "code red" pollution alert -- even without the weekday traffic and effusion of industrial pollutants.
The miserable heat was tempered only by its timing on the weekend, when most workers could stay home. But even in Ocean City, where the sea keeps temperatures lower, the high reached 94 yesterday.
It did not appear from forecasts yesterday that the heat would be departing soon -- only moderating slightly into the 90s through midweek. Mr. Figueroa said a cool front originating in Canada was expected to bring some relief today -- highs in the mid-90s.
The heat wave prompted renewed warnings, particularly to the elderly and those with health ailments, to avoid the outdoors, drink ample fluids and wear loose clothing.
One attempt to keep cool turned tragic. A 9-year-old girl drowned yesterday afternoon in a backyard swimming pool during a church gathering in the White Marsh area.
Monchel Ivett Shepherd of the 800 block of Hillman Court in Baltimore was pronounced dead at Franklin Square Hospital. Police said she was at a swimming picnic held by Greater Grace World Outreach at a home on Chapel Hill Drive.
Later in the afternoon, the numbers of patients entering hospitals for heat-related ailments appeared to be on the rise. "In the last hour, we've gotten five people into the emergency room. It's all heat-related -- heat exhaustion, heat stroke and heat cramps," Judy Collins, a nursing supervisor at Howard County General Hospital nursing supervisor, said about 6:30 p.m.
Heavy air-conditioning use led to sporadic power outages affecting 10,786 Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. customers, lasting up to two hours.
Because of concerns about tracks buckling or overhead wires sagging in the heat, Amtrak ordered trains to reduce speeds, leading to delays in Baltimore and elsewhere, Amtrak police said.
Remarkable in yesterday's heat was an outdoor wedding
reception in Southwest Baltimore, where guests did what they could to keep cool.
"This is the first wedding that I've ever been to where women aren't wearing panty hose or stockings -- not even the older women," said Amy Knox, 25, one of about 150 guests at the Carroll Park affair.
The bride, Helen Butts, was dressed for the occasion -- wearing a white sleeveless gown of lace over silk. The groom, Jeffrey Cappella, sweated it out in a dark blue suit.
It was a day when you could divide the population into two kinds of people: those who had working air-conditioning and those who wished they did. Les Sadler of Cool Wolf Air-Conditioning and Heating in Essex said he had 47 repair calls yesterday and Friday. "It's insane out there," he said. "I'm soaking wet and I've just come home to jump in a cool shower."
Others had no choice but to stay in the kitchen and take the heat. At Thrasher's French Fries on Ocean City's boardwalk, workers sweated profusely. How hot was it? "I don't even want to know," said Carl Hammond, a 37-year-old manager. "We're just staying alive, that's all. You can't take very many days like this."