Oppressively hot weekend helps establish July as one for the record books

With the mercury hovering near 100 in the Washington area, residents and visitors search for ways to chill out.
By Carol Morello
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 24, 2010

Pity poor Chris Brown, like a lot of people did Friday.

With his walkie-talkie and badge identifying him as a bicycle messenger, almost every elevator he walked into had someone who remarked, unbidden, "I'm glad I don't do what you're doing."

"I've got the air conditioner cranked at home, so when I walk in, the sweat will solidify, and I can wash it off," Brown, 29, said longingly, facing a workday in which his coping strategy for the heat boiled down to two steps: Keep drinking water and sweating.

With another oppressively hot weekend ahead, July has established itself as one of the hottest on record. According to Jason Samenow of the Capital Weather Gang, Friday was the 10th day in a row, and the 17th this month, during which temperatures topped 90 degrees. The National Weather Service had a heat advisory in effect until after nightfall, with the high of 97 degrees reported at Reagan National Airport about 5 p.m., shy of a record 101 degrees for the date set in 1991. Meteorologists predicted that Saturday would be even warmer and more humid than Friday, with temperatures reaching 101 degrees but feeling more like 110.

Systems were strained across the region. AAA warned motorists to beware of roads suddenly buckling. Commuter trains were ordered to slow down out of concern that the steel rails could expand and kink. Utilities neared or surpassed all-time peaks in electricity use, and Pepco imposed 15-minute limits on workers underground, where temperatures can hit 140 degrees.

The District expanded pool hours. The fire department dispatched "canteen trucks" equipped with misting fans and cooling chairs, in which overheated firefighters could sit and dunk their forearms in buckets of ice. Montgomery County was poised to invoke an anti-cruelty law prohibiting the tethering of dogs outside.

Many people in normally buttoned-up downtown Washington were dressed more appropriately for a resort. Men loosened their ties and rolled up shirt sleeves. Women wore strapless sundresses and shorts. Quite a few people carried bottled water, and many also carried umbrellas for shade.

Sweat management became an art form, particularly for those keeping up a professional appearance.

"I carry a lot of handkerchiefs and paper towels," said Keith Kirkpatrick, mopping his brow with a white handkerchief that he pulled from a pocket of his gray pinstriped suit as he walked to lunch from his job at Veterans Affairs. "This is Washington, D.C. You can't get away from wearing a suit."

In Rockville, Jawayne Parrish stopped on a sidewalk, unzipped a black duffel and pulled out a neatly folded baby-blue towel.

"I need it," he said, wiping his forehead and face. "I feel exhausted already, and I just started walking."

He's searching for a job and was heading to meet a restaurant manager he had met the day before. He was wearing a striped dress shirt and didn't want to be seen as a guy who could get thwarted by a little hot weather. "It's hot out, and I'm still dressed presentably," Parrish said.

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