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Heat wave gives D.C., suburbs a tropical feel

- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 21, 2011

The sweltering heat and high humidity made it feel a hotter Thursday in the Washington area than the beaches of Panama or the floating markets of Bangkok, according to weather reports.

On the first of three days that temperatures are forecast to reach triple digits, the mercury only reached 97 in the District. But wiith the high levels of humidity, it felt like 113 degrees, said National Weather Service meteorologist Brian Lasorsa.

The heat-humidity index was 106 degrees in Panama and will be 94 degrees Friday in Bangkok.

Still, the sweltering heat alone Thursday in the District failed to break the record for July 21 - 104 degrees in 1926. The record high for a July day in the District is 106 degrees - set in 1930.

Across the county, excessive heat warnings were issued from Kansas to Massachusetts. The hot weather continued to beset the Midwest as it moved eastward, making residents sick, closing summer schools and spurring cities to offer cooling centers and free swimming. Thousands of homes and businesses in southern Michigan lost power Thursday morning as people cranked up air-conditioner use.

In the District and Prince George's County, public safety officials said emergency call volumes were higher than normal, in Prince George's by as much as 20 percent.

However, Howard University Hospital, in Northwest, by midafternoon had reported no emergency room cases of heat-related illnesses.

"Everyone is vulnerable to heat-related illnesses when their bodies are unable to properly cool themselves," said Prince George's health officer Donald Shell. "In such cases, a persons body temperature rises rapidly and may damage the brain or other vital organs."

The National Weather Service said as many as 13 deaths this past week in the Midwest could be attributed to the heat.

Maryland has reported six heat-related deaths so far this year, while Virginia has logged three. None has been related to this week's heat wave.

To prevent heat-related illnesses, health departments have advised people to drink plenty of water, stay in the shade or in air conditioning and to wear light-colored, lightweight clothing.

District officials suggested residents stay cool by visiting city pools, where hours of operations have been extended, as well as recreation centers, libraries, and senior centers.

In Montgomery County, the police department's animal-services division ticketed pet owners who left their animals exposed in the sun. Officers can issue $500 tickets to pet owners who leave their dogs tethered in a way that endangers their health, officials said.

Forecasters say the oppressive heat and humidity will continue in the region through Saturday, with a slight reprieve Sunday when temperatures drop back into the 90s.

"It's still not going to be really refreshing," the weather service's Mr. Lasorsa said.

This story is based in part on wire service reports.

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