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P.G. water main repair poses health risks as scorching temperatures arrive

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Summer has descended on the D.C. area, bringing hot and humid weather and temperatures hovering near triple digits later this week.

National Weather Service officials said Monday that the heat index was around 100 degrees and that temperatures would continue to feel like the low 100s for the next several days.

"Every summer we get a share of heat waves from time to time when it's warmer than normal," weather service meteorologist Chris Strong said. "In terms of humidity, it's going to be pretty constant."

The elevated temperatures pose particular risks in parts of southern Prince George's County, where a water main repair is expected to completely cut off service for some residents for several days.

The repair, announced by the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission on Monday, could start as early as Tuesday afternoon, and officials were urging residents in the areas around Temple Hills to fill bathtubs and stock up on bottled water.

Mr. Strong said the hot weather is expected to stay through Friday. While a cold front is forecast to make its way to the area by the weekend, temperatures are only expected to drop to the low 90s.

"It will not be chilly by any stretch of the imagination," Mr. Strong said.

The weather in the D.C. area has been a little hotter than normal, Mr. Strong said, thanks to above-average temperatures at night. But with daytime heat ramping up, the region will feel like summer.

"It's hot because we have a hot high-pressure system over the area," Mr. Strong said. "That's typical for this time of year."

Mr. Strong said 14 90-degree days have been recorded so far this year, compared to last year when officials logged 23 such days. The hottest day of the year so far for the D.C. area was June 25, when the mercury hit 94 degrees at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

Eight days last year hit 100 degrees or more — one day in June and seven days in July — Mr. Strong said, including a four-day streak in July that topped out at 105 degrees.

"The last three years in the summer have been pretty hot," Mr. Strong said. "In the historical record versus this year, so far it hasn't been nearly as extreme."

Much of the rest of the country was either being showered in rain or sharing in the hot weather. In the Southwest, temperatures climbed as high as 113 degrees, Mr. Strong said.

"It can certainly be unbearable in dry heat," he said. "Standing in an oven or standing in the sun, both can be awful in their own ways."

City officials around the D.C. area were taking precautions against the heat. In the District, a heat emergency plan was enacted, meaning cooling shelters were opened on an as-needed basis and public buildings such as recreation centers and libraries welcomed passers-by who needed a few minutes in air-conditioned space.

"The heat index is how hot does it feel, and with more humidity the worse your body is at cooling itself down," Mr. Strong said.

Police and fire departments sent out warnings to parents and pet owners reminding them to not leave children or animals in hot cars.

Even historic re-enactors at Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia were doing what they could to stay cool Monday, spokesman Jim Bradley said.

"In the warmer months, they tend to go to some of the lighter materials," Mr. Bradley said of the historic costumes. "Even wool tends to be breathable because it's a natural fabric. One of the advantages of natural fabric is it wicks perspiration away from you and actually helps you cool off."

Mr. Bradley said employees go through a training course each spring on how to identify signs of heat stress in fellow employees and in guests. Visitors, he said, will be happy to know that many of the buildings on the property are also air conditioned to help preserve antiques housed inside.

"When you think about it, 200 years ago was way before air conditioning," Mr. Bradley said. "People dealt with the heat. It was just as hot and frankly just as humid."

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