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Heat sears Tri-State area

May 31, 1998|By LISA GRAYBEAL

Hagerstown's steamy weather over the weekend caused one death and made life uncomfortable for many in the Tri-State area as temperatures reached 90 degrees and above.

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A toddler died from the heat on Saturday in Halfway after climbing into the family car and closing the door.

The boy, age 2 years and 10 months, was found after he had been in the car between 30 and 90 minutes. The temperature inside the car was tested to be in excess of 120 degrees.

On Sunday, a similar call reporting a baby who was locked inside a car at Burger King on Dual Highway came in to the Hagerstown Fire Department at about 2:45 p.m.

Luckily, the air conditioning had been running in the car. Had it not been, firefighters probably would have broken the window to get the child out, said Battalion Chief Kingsley Poole.

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Poole estimated the department responds to about 50 incidents a year of children locked inside vehicles. In extreme heat, such as Sunday's, it can be very dangerous, he said.

On Saturday and Sunday, temperatures reached a high of 90 degrees in Hagerstown, coming within four degrees of records set on the same dates in 1991 at 94 degrees, according to Hagerstown weather watcher Greg Keefer.

With the humidity at about 68 percent by late afternoon Sunday, the heat index, which reflects the outside temperature that the human body feels, skyrocketed to a sizzling 104.6 degrees, according to Keefer's calculations.

In Chambersburg, Pa., the high temperature came in at 90 degrees.

In Martinsburg, W.Va., a high of 91 was recorded.

Tri-State residents had to be up at about 5:30 a.m. Sunday to enjoy the day's low temperature of 65 degrees.

Had it not been for the steady breeze during the day, it would have felt even worse.

In Hagerstown, the wind gusted up to 20 mph at 2:27 p.m., Keefer said.

Tri-State area hospitals reported few to no admissions related to the heat over the weekend.

The only people who didn't seem fazed by the heat were those who spent the afternoons close to water.

On Saturday, attendance at the Potterfield Swimming Pool on Commonwealth Avenue in Hagerstown reached nearly 700 people, said Scott Hiteshue, assistant manager.

For about two hours, the public pool met and held its capacity of 500, he said.

That happened only once last summer, in mid-July, Hiteshue said.

"This is great, it really is. This is probably one of the fastest starts we've had," he said.

At 3:30 p.m. Sunday, 400 people had shown up for a swim in the 50-meter, 980,000-gallon pool.

"It was too hot to play basketball. I came straight to the swimming pool," said Purnell Spruce, 13, of Hagerstown.

Sitting at picnic tables at Antietam Dairy on South Church Street in Waynesboro, Pa., several people hurriedly licked or spooned melting ice cream from cones and dishes.

"We just thought this would be a nice, cool treat," said Mary Lee Fleagle, of Blue Ridge Summit, Pa., making a quick swipe with her tongue at a double-dip chocolate chip ice cream cone.

Crowds started coming to the ice cream shop earlier than usual on Sunday and it stayed busy throughout the afternoon, said Sara Rossman, 19, an employee.

The weekend closed out the month of May, which brought more than 51/2 inches of rain and temperature extremes.

Sunday night saw severe thunderstorm and tornado watches in Fulton and Frederick counties in Pennsylvania and Western Maryland.

On May 16, the high temperature of 91 degrees tied a record set in 1900. Four days previously, on May 12, the high temperature of the day was 56 degrees.

More normal temperatures for this time of year will return to the area today and remain through the week with highs in the mid-to-upper 70s and lows in the mid 50s, according to the National Weather Service.

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