- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 25, 2002

Forecasters expect a repeat today of hot and humid weather.

The temperature in downtown Washington yesterday reached 93 degrees, and the humidity pushed the heat index above 100. That was high enough for the National Weather Service to declare a heat advisory.

The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments declared a Code Red alert, urging residents in the Washington-Baltimore region to guard against heat and air pollution. The council encouraged Maryland and Virginia commuters to take advantage of free rides on Metrobuses to reduce exhaust fumes from auto traffic.

Mayor Anthony A. Williams hoped to obtain federal money to provide free Metrobus rides for D.C. commuters.

The forecast for today is almost identical temperatures in the mid-90s, high humidity and a 30 percent chance of thundershowers this afternoon.

The combination of high temperatures and humidity makes it difficult for the body to cool itself, said meteorologist Andy Woodcock.

It also increases ground-level ozone to an unhealthy level, said Lorrie Pearson of the council of governments.

The heat advisory applied to southern and eastern portions of Virginia and most of Maryland, reaching northward into Pennsylvania.

The council urged residents to keep driving to a minimum, postpone use of gas-powered lawn mowers, refuel after dark, stay indoors and in air conditioning, wear light clothing and drink lots of nonalcoholic beverages.

Young children and elderly adults are most likely to suffer life-threatening heatstrokes and heat exhaustion because their bodies adjust to temperature extremes more slowly, said Dr. Kenneth Latchis of the Washington Hospital Center.

"The mortality rate for heatstroke is high," said Dr. Latchis.

Being in the sunlight and exerting the body increases the risk of stroke or exhaustion. Sweating, which is the body's way to keep cool, may become ineffective and body temperatures may rise to a dangerous 103 or 104 degrees.

When an elderly person becomes confused, "that's a red flag," said Dr. Latchis, adding that friends and relatives should take steps immediately to get those suffering into a cool environment.

Emergency crews responded to a "considerable number" of heat-related illnesses or injuries yesterday, D.C. fire department spokesman Alan Etter said.

He said the most important thing for emergency crews to do when they respond to such a call is make sure the victim is adequately hydrated.

"Frankly, very few heat-related injuries have to be transported to the hospital," Mr. Etter said.

As hot as it was, yesterday's temperatures were below the 98-degree record set in 1894.

It seems unlikely that today's mid-90s temperature will equal the record 100 set in 1997.

Yesterday was not the hottest day this year. Thermometers registered 95 degrees on April 17 and June 12.

Temperatures reached 99 degrees yesterday in Petersburg, Va., and drought-stricken Frederick, Md.

Rain, even from thunderstorms, would ease dry conditions that have persisted since September.

Weather records indicate rainfall is about 4 inches below average.

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