- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 31, 2002

The metropolitan Washington area is expected to get a break from the suffocating heat of recent days, thanks to a northwest wind that moved through the region yesterday.

The temperature at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport hit 93 degrees yesterday, and with 46 percent humidity, it felt like 99 degrees.

Last night, temperatures were expected to drop into the 70s in Washington and down to the 60s in the suburbs. Today, temperatures are expected to rise into the lower 90s, with the wind continuing.

"It's much less than Monday. It is certainly more tolerable," said meteorologist Steve Zubrick of the National Weather Service.

Mr. Zubrick said the wind "took the edge off the heat."

But the wind, which blew at about 15 mph, also headed off a predicted thunderstorm and much-needed rain, especially on Maryland farms.

Donald Vandrey, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Agriculture, said the corn harvest on some Eastern Shore farms will be 50 percent smaller because of drought.

Officials said that Gov. Parris N. Glendening, a Democrat, might soon ask the federal government for drought-disaster relief in the form of low-interest loans to farmers.

The cooling trend was good news for energy companies, which had suggested after Monday's excessive heat that consumers cut down on their use of air conditioning.

Potomac Electric Power Co. and Dominion Virginia Power alerted customers who take part in conservation programs that their power would be partially curtailed.

Called Kilowatchers by Pepco and Curtailed Service and Standby Generation by Dominion, the programs automatically cut off air conditioning briefly.

Dominion spokesman Dan Genest at the Richmond office said customers who turn up thermostats 1degree typically would receive a bill trimmed by 3 percent.

"It's prudent to use energy wisely," said Pepco spokesman James Taylor. "We're not saying to cut everything off."

Use of electricity between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. Monday set a new record for Pepco.

That came just six days after the previous power-usage record was set July 23, officials said.

On Monday, Dominion briefly curtailed electricity to some major users, such as mills and chemical plants.

Like the other customer programs, those mills and plants had agreed to reductions on hot summer days in return for lower year-round rates.

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