Will Stover and Butch Murray may have been the only people in the Washington area who stepped outside to cool off yesterday.
Yesterday's muggy heat seemed downright frosty compared to the 110 degrees inside the Fourth Street Cleaners where Stover and Murray had worked over two steam pressers since 8 a.m.
"There's nothin' but hot air inside and hot air outside," said Murray, poking a finger at the three huge fans in his small shop at 2022 Fourth St. NW. "On a day like this, fans don't do much good."
The nighttime hours didn't offer much relief either. The lowest temperature recorded yesterday--84 degrees at 3:34 a.m. at National Airport--set a new record for the highest minimum temperature for Washington, according to the National Weather Service. The old record of 82 degrees was set on July 9, 1981.
High temperatures for the next four days are expected hover around the 96 degrees recorded yesterday afternoon, but nights are expected to be a little cooler, with temperatures dropping into the 70s, according to Harold Hess, a weather service forecaster.
Saturday's heat, enhanced by high humidity, was made more bearable by stiff northwesterly breezes that helped clear the unhealthy, stagnant air of the previous day, weather experts said.
The weather service recorded gusts of up to 20 miles an hour and the Council of Governments rated air quality as "moderate," an improvement over the "unhealthful" air of the two previous days.
"The heat's not as hard on people when everything's stirred up like it was today," said Robert Magill, a COG environmental expert.
Still, many folks spent the day listlessly, within easy reach of their air-conditioners or fans. "Air conditioning is a blessing," declared Lois Wells, 49, who spent the day in the living room of the Adams Mill Road apartment she shares with her sister-in-law, Ollie Matias, 56.
Wells, who has high blood pressure, and Matias, who recently was treated for cancer, said their doctors advised them to go outdoors only when necessary.
Last year, six window fans cooled their apartment but a neighbor recently gave them a portable air conditioner for their living room. Although it was turned on high yesterday afternoon, the unit barely cooled the room.
"When it gets hot, you don't move," said Matias. Wells said the pair drank iced tea and water throughout the day and ate light food and fruits to fight the heat.
Hot, humid weather such as yesterday's can be especially dangerous to the elderly, infants and people with heart or respiratory problems, said doctors and medical experts. "The elderly can succumb to the heat, particularly on a day like this," said Moulton Avery, the executive director of the Center for Environmental Physiology in Washington.
High humidity, which interferes with the evaporation of perspiration, the body's natural cooling system, also increases risks to the elderly, Avery said.
Few hospital emergency rooms reported heat-related injuries yesterday. Early in the afternoon, an unidentified man was treated for heat stroke at the Washington Hospital Center. The man, who was found in an abondoned building on Park Road NW, was in critical condition, a hospital spokesman said.
Despite the heat, the Mall attracted its usual share of weekend sightseers, including Donna Burton of Southwest and her 6-year-old daughter, LaRhonda, who strolled around the Ellipse looking for a Caribbean music festival scheduled for Sunday.
"I like being outside no matter how hot it gets," said Burton. "You just have to stop and drink soda every 20 minutes."
"Lots of soda," giggled LaRhonda.
Ice cream vendors, meanwhile, said customers were cool to their product during the day. "It gets so hot that people don't want to come out of the shade," complained Dick Gammon, the area supervisor for Good Humor Ice Cream in Hyattsville. "You can do a tremendous business after 7 p.m. but there's not enough time."
Besides, Gammon said, eating ice cream may not be the best way to beat the heat. Said Gammon, "The first thing you want to do after eating some ice cream is to drink a glass of water, anyway."