- The Washington Times - Friday, August 10, 2001

The heat wave that has gripped the Washington area for most of the week hit its peak yesterday, prompting local power companies to cut back the voltage usually supplied to its customers.
By early yesterday afternoon, temperatures rose to 97 degrees and the heat index was between 100 and 110 degrees for much of the day, the National Weather Service reported.
"It's definitely been one of the hottest days in two years," said Howard Silverman, a meteorologist.
The heat index measures how hot it feels when temperature and humidity levels are combined.
The combination of excessive heat and humidity led power companies in Virginia, Maryland and the District to reduce their system voltage by 5 percent at 3:15 p.m. until shortly before 6 p.m. yesterday.
In Annapolis, Gov. Parris N. Glendening yesterday ordered lights turned off and thermostats raised to 80 degrees in state office buildings until 7 p.m. Mr. Glendening appealed to other governments, businesses and homeowners to cut their power use.
Meanwhile, in Baltimore, the three-day heat wave was a factor Wednesday in the deaths of a 50-year-old man, a 75-year-old man and a 75-year-old woman.
But the intense heat did not stop some area residents from participating in outdoor activities, despite warnings issued by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments that declared yesterday a Code Red day.
Joggers and cyclists alike ventured onto the Mall in the middle of yesterday afternoon for their daily run or ride around the monuments.
"I know I may look crazy out here, but I'm really not — just stupid, maybe," said John Leake, a federal government employee from Kensington, who was just beginning his daily 5-mile run.
"It's a stress reliever for me," Mr. Leake said. "I try to be careful, though."
Young athletes throughout the region have been careful, too, particularly in the District, where most high school football teams started their practice Wednesday for the upcoming season.
Coaches are holding practices in the early morning or late afternoon to prevent the players from getting heat stroke or heat exhaustion, said Frank Walters, coordinator of athletic health care services for D.C. Public School's Department of Athletics.
"It can be done safely," Mr. Walters said yesterday. "Coaches know that they need to get in there, get things done quickly and leave."
Coaches also are closely monitoring each athlete's weight loss after each practice. Any youngster who loses more than 5 percent of his body weight during practice will not be allowed to participate in the next practice, Mr. Walters said.
He said coaches also are encouraging the athletes to wear light-colored shorts and T-shirts, and take five-minute breaks every 15 minutes. But the coaches don't foresee canceling practices in the near future.
"This type of weather in the South is quite common," Mr. Walters said. "Kids are going to get hot anyway. And their bodies have to become conditioned for the upcoming games. If we cancel, it would push everything back."
Forecasters said temperatures will remain in the high 90s for most of today before thunderstorms arrive late. The storms will bring temperatures down to the mid-80s for the weekend.
"It'll be a pinch cooler," Mr. Silverman said.
The reduced voltage yesterday, which causes appliances to use less power, most likely wasn't noticed by customers. But electric motors would have slowed down slightly or lights might have dimmed, utility officials said.
Customers also were asked to cut back on all nonessential electricity use, including air conditioners, to ease the strain on the transmission system that serves the Mid-Atlantic region.
Power company officials said they may consider cutting back the voltage again, if the situation remains the same today.
Potomac Electric Power Co. officials called the strain yesterday a "very serious situation" and warned that, if need be, they will resort to rolling blackouts to keep the entire electric-power grid from failing.
"We have to do this to preserve the integrity of the power grid," said Robert Dobkin, a Pepco spokesman.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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