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As Temperature Ties Record, Residents Seek Relief

By Bill Brubaker, Megan Greenwell and Theresa Vargas
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, June 8, 2008

Forecasters warned us that it was coming but the 98-degree reading at 1:12 p.m. yesterday at Reagan National Airport was still startling.

It tied a record set in 1999, and felt more like summertime in Marrakesh than Manassas, more like Khartoum than Kensington.

"Yeah, it's hot out here," lifeguard John Lawrence said at the Volta Park pool in Georgetown, which was filled earlier in the day to capacity with 110 swimmers. In a hallway, 20 wannabes waited for their chance to take a dip.

With temperatures forecast to be in the upper 90s again today and tomorrow, experts urged people to gulp lots of nonalcoholic drinks, stay indoors and not do anything crazy. Like go for a run on the Mall.

"For some reason, people like to do that when it's hot," said Richard Hitchens, a National Weather Service forecaster. "We're hoping people know they should act a little differently than they do normally. You know, we don't want to see any heatstrokes."

In the District yesterday morning, celebrities and thousands of area residents braved the heat to attend the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. Thirty-two runners were treated for heat-related incidents, a D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services official said. Two were briefly hospitalized, including a pregnant woman.

Dozens of Southeast residents were without water or had little water pressure yesterday as a result of residents turning on about 25 fire hydrants in the area. D.C. Water and Sewer Authority spokeswoman Michele Quander-Collins said many residents on streets including Savannah, Martin Luther King Jr. and Alabama avenues were without water. Quander-Collins said some residents complained that as soon as WASA employees arrived to close a hydrant, neighbors would return and open it again. Deborah Boseman of the 900 block of Barnaby St. SE had been without water for almost six hours. "This doesn't make any sense," she said.

However, Quander-Collins said things appeared to improve as the evening went on, and it appeared possible that hydrants were being shut off.

Anticipating the possibility of hydrant problems again today, WASA officials wanted to remind the public that unauthorized hydrant use is unlawful, dangerous an damaging.

Today, smog is again expected to reach Code Orange levels, meaning the air quality will be unhealthy for older or very young people and those exercising strenuously, said the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. Tomorrow and Tuesday will be Code Red days: unhealthy air for everyone.

Crews struggled in the heat and humidity to restore power that had been out since Wednesday.

One of those whose power came back was Ron Huebner of western Loudoun County, whose lights blinked on at 3 p.m. He was also without water, because his well had an electric pump. "Three days," he said. "It seems like forever."

That, of course, was before new outages last night.

In some parts of the region, including the District and Fairfax and Prince George's counties, emergency cooling centers were opened for people who lacked air conditioning or just needed a break.

For many, though, the pool was the place to be.

In the District's Barry Farm neighborhood, pool manager Jay Brocks reported more swimmers than usual yesterday afternoon. "I'm seeing faces I don't usually see, because of the heat," he said. "And parents are thanking us for having a place where their kids can jump in and cool off."

Nearby, Trista Dunlap, a 38-year-old University of the District of Columbia student, was cooling off with her son Anthony Brooks Jr., 7.

"It's a gorgeous day," she said, seemingly unfazed by the 95-degree temperature. "It's a beautiful day to be right here in the nation's capital, east of the [Anacostia] River."

On the other side of the river, at the Open City Diner on Connecticut Avenue, normally popular outdoor tables sat empty while upwards of two-dozen people waited for tables inside.

Gail Kellerman, who was waiting for a table with her family, said a broken air-conditioning unit had forced her to abruptly cancel her son's birthday party.

"We were going to cook chocolate-chip pancakes at home and have friends over," Kellerman said. "But the air conditioning went out last night, and we can't get a repair until tomorrow, so it's breakfast here, then the pool, then a movie."

The birthday boy, 7-year-old Sam Kellerman, took the change of plans in stride. "Swimming is my favorite thing, and then I get to see 'Kung Fu Panda,' " he said. "So it's a good birthday."

Farmers also seemed undaunted.

At the Arlington Farmers Market, raspberries were threatening to turn mushy under the sun's glare. But John Mezza, 61, manning the booth for Wheatland Vegetable Farms in Loudoun, said he was more worried more about people picking vegetables at the farms. "It is soaking, soaking work," he said. "Once the sun hits you and you have that much moisture in the ground, it's like being in the sauna."

Mezza added that his wife, who had spent the day gardening, already had laid out his duties for when he got home.

"My instructions today are to make sure the air conditioner is in the window," he said.

Staff writers, Keith L. Alexander and Mary Beth Sheridan, John Wagner and Martin Weil contributed to this report.

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