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Many visit retailers for relief from heat

July 05, 1999|By GREG SIMMONS

Sales heated up at local businesses Monday as people searched the aisles for ways to beat the heat.

Barbara Deatrich, 54, of Hagerstown, stopped at the Hagerstown Wal-Mart on Wesel Boulevard to buy a second air conditioner for her house because her 75-year-old mother has trouble breathing.

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She found the aisle was empty of air conditioners and only fans remained.

"You can't sleep in this heat. I think everyone wants to be cool," Deatrich said before leaving to continue her search for an air conditioner.

Deatrich eventually found an 18,000 Btu air conditioner at Lowe's on Wesel Boulevard.

According to the National Weather Service, the high temperature Monday at Washington County Regional Airport was 97 degrees.

Local weather observer Greg Keefer said the high in Hagerstown Monday was 99 degrees at 5:07 p.m.

The mercury did not climb to a record-setting level, however. Keefer said the record for July 5 was 100 degrees, set in 1949.

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Monday's high in Williamsport was 101 degrees and the high in Frederick, Md., was 105 degrees, according to local weather observers.

In Martinsburg, W.Va., the mercury climbed to 102 degrees.

The National Weather Service predicted local highs would remain in the 90s at least through Saturday.

Bonnie Nadeau, Hagerstown Wal-Mart assistant manager, said the store sold four or five air conditioners a day over the weekend. She said they normally sell three or four air conditioners a week.

Bill Cosner, the Hagerstown Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse manager, said many of the items in his store that people use to cool down were being pulled off the shelves as fast as employees could stock them.

Cosner said that last Thursday his store had a 24-foot-long by 18-foot-high shelf area stocked with one-room use air-conditioning units, which range between 5,000 and 12,000 Btu.

By Monday morning, 130 air conditioners ranging in price from $167 to almost $700 had been sold, Cosner said.

Cosner said he is sold out of air conditioners under 18,000 Btu, which is the size that would be used to cool a small house or an average mobile home.

Wanda Wheeler, 54, of Hagerstown, said she was looking for a new air conditioner because she and her husband had just bought a new house, and their old unit wasn't powerful enough to cool the whole house.

Also "Nostradamus predicted this would be the worst summer, and he's pretty good at predicting," Wheeler said.

In Martinsburg, W.Va., Lowe's Assistant Manager Pete Powers said his store was selling many items people use to help them keep cool. He said that in a week, his store usually sells two or three ice packs used in lunch or drink coolers. In the past week, more than 24 ice packs were sold.

Powers said one- and five-gallon water jugs have been popular with people doing construction and lawn work.

Many air-conditioning maintenance companies were closed for Monday for the July 4 holiday and offered only emergency services.

"We're over-worked, tired and grouchy," said Barry Knerr, owner of Knerr Heating, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration in Shippensburg, Pa.

Over the last two weeks, his employees have averaged 12- to 14-hour days, he said. His business serves about 40 regular customers, mainly restaurants, he said.

"When you're totally worn out, you stop," Knerr said.

Austin Landry, owner of Smuggler's Paradise restaurant in Martinsburg W.Va., replaced one of the two air-conditioning units in his 7,000-square-foot business a few months ago.

"As long as it's cool in the dining room and bar area ... as long as it keeps the customers happy, I'm happy," Landry said.

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