Hot, hot, hot enough for you? D.C. region sweats out a triple-digit heat wave

Thursday was Day Five of the current heat wave and put the 28th day at or above 90 degrees this year in the books.
By Rick Rojas and Phillip Lucas
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Temperatures in the region climbed into the triple digits Tuesday, continuing a heat wave that meteorologists say might just last through the summer.

The mercury reached as high as 102 degrees at Reagan National Airport as near-record temperatures spread across the Eastern Seaboard. The National Weather Service issued heat advisories from Washington to Boston.

Forecasters said they expect temperatures to be higher than usual through September, threatening residents susceptible to heat-related health issues and possibly placing considerable strain on the region's electrical grid.

"We are looking at above-normal temperatures through the summer," said Kevin Witt, a National Weather Service meteorologist. "I can't say we are expecting any more hundreds, but this is summer. If we have another area of high pressure move into the region . . . that might bring us more higher temperatures, if not record temperatures."

The high Tuesday missed the record by one degree. The high mark for July 6 was set in 1999, with a reading of 103 at Reagan National. The temperature has crossed the 100-degree mark six times in the past decade.

In Washington, weary pedestrians huffed and perspired as they shuffled along sizzling sidewalks, occasionally catching puffs of cool air as they passed open shop doors or Metro station entrances. Parks and sidewalk cafes were generally cleared of people, although a few folks stopped to dip their feet in fountains. Many tourists said they were opting for museums or simply staying in their hotel rooms.

Along with the heat warnings, the National Weather Service issued a Code Orange air-quality alert for the region, lasting through Thursday. The alert, for ozone pollution, is targeted at children, the elderly, and those suffering from heart disease or asthma and other lung diseases. Sensitive groups are urged to minimize strenuous activity outdoors.

The searing temperatures are expected to endure through the week, with a high nearing 100 on Wednesday. Showers and thunderstorms are forecast for Thursday, but "they're not going to do anything as far as giving us relief that day," said Andy Woodcock, a National Weather Service meteorologist.

This week's heat comes on the heels of a stretch in June that broke two daily records. The 100 degrees measured June 24 and the 99 on June 27 contributed to making June "above normal for the entire month," Witt said.

The continued heat and dramatically increased demand has power companies asking customers to conserve and keep from cranking thermostats down. Usage has increased by 55 percent in Northern Virginia compared with the average June, according to Dominion Virginia Power. At Baltimore Gas & Electric, Tuesday's peak usage was an estimated 6,900 megawatts -- not hitting the 7,198-megawatt record set in August 2006, but far higher than the normal 5,500 megawatts, said Linda Foy, a BG&E spokeswoman.

Although officials from area power suppliers say there have been no heat-related outages in the region, they warn that it takes conservation to keep from creating too heavy a burden on the electrical grid.

"We're just asking people to conserve: Leave the drapes closed, or not to use high-heat appliances," said Bob Hainey, a Pepco spokesman. He suggested leaving thermostats at 78 degrees.

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