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Heat is 'like the tropics'

June 27, 1998|By CLYDE FORD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Michael Marpole was harvesting his wheat crop Friday with heat shimmering on the fields and temperatures hovering in the 90s.

After finishing on his combine, he climbed onto a tractor and baled straw.

"She was a bit warm today," said Marpole, 43, of Gerrardstown, W.Va., after he finished his work on a day with the heat index above 100 degrees.

"That kind of stuff you've got to do when the weather's right. You make hay when the sun's shining and you feed it when you freeze to death," Marpole said.

Throughout the Tri-State area, the high temperatures and high humidity combined for a stifling hot day Friday.

In Hagerstown, the heat index reached 111 degrees at 1:40 p.m. when the temperature reached 94 degrees and the humidity was 65 percent, said local weather observer Greg Keefer. The high temperature was 96 degrees, reached at 2:55 p.m. when the humidity was 55 percent. The record high temperature for the date is 98 degrees set in 1954.

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"That's pretty rough," Keefer said. "It's kind of unusual to be this humid this early. This is like late-summer weather. This is like the tropics of Florida."

Marpole said he made it through the day by drinking lots of water.

Other people sought relief by buying air conditioners or going out for ice cream.

At the Lowe's in Hagerstown, manager Roger Hecker said customers started buying air conditioners and electric fans earlier this week with the sales peaking with the temperature on Friday.

"Sales are screaming through the roof," Hecker said.

"Our stock is diminishing very quickly. We only have larger units left," Hecker said.

People seemed near desperation as they came in looking for air conditioners to provide relief, he said.

"I don't think it mattered to a lot of people what the price was. They just wanted an air conditioner now," Hecker said.

Three people were treated at Washington County Hospital for heat-related ailments and released, said hospital spokeswoman Beth Kirkpatrick.

There were no reported cases of heat-related ailments at Martinsburg's City Hospital, at Chambersburg (Pa.) Hospital or at Waynesboro (Pa.) Hospital, officials said.

"People who don't have air conditioning should at least have fans or something," Kirkpatrick said.

The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene issued a warning to residents to avoid the dangers from the high temperatures. Those particularly vulnerable to the effects of hot, humid conditions include older adults, young children and those who are overweight, have heart disease, diabetes or other chronic health problems.

"Don't overexert yourself outside and stay inside in the cool of the air conditioning," Kirkpatrick said.

The forecast for today called for more hazy, muggy weather, with highs in the middle 90s and humidity slightly lower than Friday, said Chris Strong, a National Weather Service meteorologist.

"It won't feel quite as sticky, but with the highs in the 90s it will still feel uncomfortable," Strong said. There is a 30 percent chance for thunderstorms today, he said.

On Sunday, the high temperature is expected to be in the mid-80s with the humidity dropping, Strong said.

Allegheny Power asked its customers to cut back on power use because high demand for electricity during extreme heat can cause service interruptions.

Allegheny Power suggested customers turn off all unneeded electrical appliances and lights, raise the air conditioning thermostat, close shades and blinds, and put off using the dish washer, clothes washer, dryer and water heater until evening hours.

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