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The forecast? Hot, with a chance of sweltering and sizzling

This week brings a string of days with temperatures above 95 degrees and a heat index of 100 or higher.

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By Kevin Sieff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 24, 2010

First we were buried under Snowmageddon. Then we sweated through the hottest spring in Washington history. But that might have been only a warmup.

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The temperature in Washington hit 97 degrees Wednesday, making it the hottest day of the year. It was the 12th time this year that the mercury passed 90 degrees, equaling the total for all of last year. The heat index -- the measure of how miserable you actually feel -- soared to more than 100 degrees.

And although it was just Monday that marked the official transition from spring to summer, the first days of this new season feel all too familiar -- the same soaring temperatures, the same hunt for respite.

Residents drove to community pools, malls and other places made habitable by air conditioning. And where there was no shelter, there was precaution: Paramedics fielded heat stroke-related calls, and a Humane Society employee scoured the District for dogs left in cars.

And for some, such as Juan Avalos, who found themselves working outside, there was sweat and stoicism.

"Nothing we can do really," said Avalos, who has worked on sidewalk and street maintenance in Hyattsville for seven months. "We have to work anyway."

The early surge in temperatures took some residents by surprise. Jennifer Gardner of the Humane Society has been fielding calls about animals dangerously exposed to the heat for the past couple of months.

On Wednesday, she was alerted to a German shepherd named Sam, who panted behind a wire fence on Gallaudet Street NE. "I don't see a lot of shade for you, buddy," Gardner said. She found Sam's owner and suggested the dog spend some time out of the sun. It's not always that easy. Three times this year, the Humane Society was alerted after dogs had died of heatstroke.

D.C. fire department spokesman Pete Piringer said two extra ambulances were put to use Wednesday after a barrage of heat-related emergency calls. "Some people say it's getting hot earlier than usual," Piringer said. "This feels pretty normal to us."

This year has been anything but normal. The storms of February delivered more than 30 inches of snow to the District. But temperatures soon rose: This spring's average of 66.7 degrees was a half degree warmer than the average for spring 1991, formerly the warmest spring in Washington's history.

It is likely to stay hot for the next several days, with highs in the 90s, according to the National Weather Service. High temperatures Thursday are predicted to near three digits.

But some, such as Jason Jackson of Alexandria, say those devices don't reflect the true heat.


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