Area officials sweat about safety of heat

Triple-digit temperatures expected

Gabriel Carvajal of Cali, Colombia, dips his head into a sprinkler while 4-year-old Emmanuel Contreas of Boston rubs his head in Washington on Wednesday. "The heat is never as bad as this where I live in Colombia," Mr. Carvajal said. (Drew Angerer/The Washington Times)Gabriel Carvajal of Cali, Colombia, dips his head into a sprinkler while 4-year-old Emmanuel Contreas of Boston rubs his head in Washington on Wednesday. “The heat is never as bad as this where I live in Colombia,” Mr. Carvajal said. (Drew Angerer/The Washington Times)

Triple-digit temperatures are expected to hit the region Thursday and remain through Saturday, forcing officials to implement emergency-ready plans while residents scramble for air conditioning and outdoor workers move to survival mode.

“People are dropping like flies,” pedicab driver John Curran said Wednesday while he waited for a fare along 17th Street in Northwest. “I think I’ve gotten used to what it feels like to be 90 degrees.”

Mr. Curran was one of about a half-dozen pedicab drivers near the White House making a few extra bucks off so many wilted pedestrians. However, he acknowledged he might have been in similar straights without his half-gallon jug of iced tea.

The region routinely suffers through long, hot summers — including a record-breaking July 2010. But this stretch will perhaps be unprecedented because of the level of humidity that is expected, said National Weather Service meteorologist Brian Lasorsa.

Humidity, or the amount of moisture in the atmosphere, is what causes hot temperatures to be even more unbearable, Mr. Lasorsa explained, because the wet air prevents sweat from evaporating and cooling a person.

Pedicab driver Jared Denmar, of Dunn Loring, said his best method for cooling down after a ride in the Washington heat is to grab two large containers of water. (Drew Angerer/The Washington Times)

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Pedicab driver Jared Denmar, of Dunn Loring, said his best method for ... more >

“Usually, when you have extremely high temperatures over 100 degrees, sometimes the humidity is lower,” he said. “This is not the case. The humidity is going to be really high.”

The District took pre-emptive measures Wednesday by activated a multiagency plan in response to forecasts for temperatures, arriving from the West, of 90 to 100 degrees, with heat-index values predicted to reach 115 degrees.

The combination of hot temperatures and high humidity will create a “dangerous situation in which heat illnesses are possible,” said the administration of Mayor Vincent C. Gray.

Pepco, which supplies electricity to the District and surrounding Maryland suburbs, said the region’s power supply is expected to be enough to meet demand. However, the company advised customers to save energy through such measures as closing curtains to keep homes cooler and setting thermostats at 78 or higher if health conditions allow. They also asked customers to delaying the use of major appliances until temperatures begin to drop in the evening.

Should overuse or storms knock out power, the Maryland State Fire Marshal’s Office suggests the use of flashlights instead of candles. The agency also warns residents to operate portable power generators outside of homes and garages.

On Wednesday, District officials also visited all 115 certified residential facilities that house people with mental illness to gauge preparations for the heat, such as an adequate water supply and functioning air conditioners, according to the Gray administration.

The officials also suggested residents cool down by visiting city recreation centers, libraries and senior centers. In addition, the city has extend hours of operation at larger pools through Sunday.

Pedicab peddler Jared Denmar, of Dunn Loring, said his best method for cooling down after a ride is grabbing two large containers of water.

“I dust about half of that,” he said.

Mr. Denmar had been on the clock for two hours by late Wednesday morning and he said he already had already given two rides, work that showed in his wet shirt and floppy nylon hat.

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