Heat Wave Moves Into 4th Day

Relief Near for Scorched Area

The East Coast is trying to cope with a massive heat wave as temperatures climbed toward the century mark.
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, June 10, 2008; Page A01

Somewhere over Ohio and Kentucky and the central Appalachian range, there is an end to this wicked heat wave, a benevolent air mass of milder weather moving our way that won't kill your lawn or wither your pets. If it arrives later today, as predicted, it will break the hot spell in a crack of thunder, banishing the awful funk out to sea.

And the people will rejoice. For they have suffered.

They suffered yesterday, the third day in a row, in stuffy classrooms and hot cars and at dusty construction sites. They suffered in sweaty homes without electricity and in office buildings where cooling systems quit working. With few clouds to shield the bright, baking sun, the pre-summer heat wave hit 96 degrees at Reagan National Airport at 3:22 p.m. That was well below the record high of 102 set in 1874, but surely no spring picnic. The heat index, which is how hot it feels, reached 102.

And it was plenty hot enough to put local governments, power companies and worried parents on alert. Cooling centers remained open, public pools extended hours and administrators at several schools around the region sent students home for lack of air conditioning.

The hot weather will continue today, with temperatures in the upper 90s, forecasters said. Relief would come with a front of cooler air that should arrive by afternoon or evening, with thunderstorms possible.

"Some will be capable of producing damaging winds and large hail, but they won't be as widespread as last Wednesday," said National Weather Service meteorologist Brian LaSorsa, referring to violent storms that killed a Fairfax County man.

Hundreds of thousands of area residents lost power in those storms, and although service had been nearly restored by yesterday afternoon, there were new reports of power failures in Herndon and Springfield and in parts of Maryland and the District.

The heat produced poor air quality, which prompted several schools to cancel recess and forced Metro to issue a Code Red alert, offering free rides on bus routes outside the District. The agency did not get the word out to its drivers before the morning rush, so many riders paid for their trips anyway.

At least they did not have to drive in traffic. Heat-averse residents who had spent the weekend in their homes were left to contend with sweltering commutes and roasting classrooms.

In Prince George's County, Isaac J. Gourdine and Dwight D. Eisenhower middle schools and Central and Bladensburg high schools suspended classes because of a lack of air conditioning, said Tanzi West, a spokeswoman for the school system. In Rockville, Tilden Middle School also overheated, and classes were canceled.

In Howard County, officials shut Howard and Marriott Ridge high schools at 12:30 p.m. because the campuses' cooling systems had given out. Parents in minivans and sport-utility vehicles arrived, idling in long lines in the hot sun, waiting to take home the students.

Doug Lambert, a minister at the Greater Baltimore Church of Christ of Brooklyn, Md., had his entire day mapped out until he received a midmorning text message from his daughter Victoria, a freshman at Howard High School, asking him to pick her up. Lambert was looking forward, cautiously, to the end of the heat wave.

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