- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 1, 2006

For Raphael Tewolde, summer in the District is more uncomfortable than in his homeland of Eritrea.

In Eritrea, the average high temperature in August is 80 degrees, Mr. Tewolde said, much lower than the D.C. area’s average temperature of 88 degrees, plus the stifling humidity.

“It’s not hot because it’s in the mountains, and it’s not cold because it’s on the equator,” said Mr. Tewolde, 63, of the District, referring to the tiny African country just north of Ethiopia. “It’s like the Garden of Eden.”

Weatherwise, the Washington area this week seems to be far from Eden.

The unofficial high for the Washington area yesterday was 97 degrees, 3 degrees lower than the record high temperature of 100 degrees that was set Aug. 1, 1980, meteorologists with the National Weather Service said yesterday. The heat index measured at 108 degrees yesterday, the weather service reported.

The scorching heat prompted Metro officials to pass out 21,000 bottles of water at several stations in the District where escalator use is limited.

Localities in Maryland and Virginia opened cooling centers where people could seek relief from the oppressive heat. Summer school in Baltimore County closed several hours early yesterday because of it.

Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine directed state offices to reduce energy consumption and asked people to check on their elderly neighbors and those with young children.

Potomac Electric Power Co. officials said the high temperatures and humidity levels led to an unofficial peak-usage record for the utility. About 6,858 megawatts of power were used during the hottest part of the day yesterday by the utility’s 745,000 customers, officials said. The peak demand for Pepco was set July 27, 2005, when usage hit 6,725 megawatts.

Today, the temperature is expected to reach 100 degrees, with a heat index of 112 degrees, the weather service said.

Many D.C.-area residents agreed that summers in the D.C. area are among the worst when compared with other parts of the world that are closer to the equator.

And, every culture has its own way of cooling off.

It’s more humid in Washington than in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, said Helena Hekuriya, 18.

The flip side is, “We don’t have air conditioning,” she said. Temperatures in Ethiopia often reach triple digits.

“It is very hot here, hotter than in Ethiopia,” said Senetibeb Debre, 22, of Wheaton. “That’s because it’s very humid here.”

To cool off in Ethiopia, people go to the rivers to swim and drink water, she said.

The temperatures in Portugal and Washington are similar during the day, said Portuguese travel agent Ester Malafaia of Expoviagens, while enjoying the air conditioning in Union Station. But at night in the District, it’s hot. But in Portugal, the sea brings in cool air at night, she said.

Seoul has milder summers than Washington, with an average high temperature of 85 degrees in August.

Sue Jung, project coordinator of the KORUS House at the Embassy of the Republic of Korea, said Koreans often visit rivers, water parks and the beach, and eat cold noodles and special shaved ice to cool off.

The Koreans also modify their choice of entertainment for the summer, she said.

Watching horror movies to cool off is a cultural fad in South Korea, Miss Jung said. “When you’re scared, you feel chills,” she said.

But not everyone thinks that the summer weather in the Washington area is so bad.

In Port-de-Paix, Haiti, a town that used to, but no longer, receives electricity, the nights are unbearable compared with Washington, said Haitian native Elvita Louis Pierre, an associate manager at Au Bon Pain in Union Station.

“After 10 you cannot sleep because it’s so hot and because of the flies. Here people have the Mall where they can go to cool off, but they still complain. … They have air conditioning and everything.”

• Arlo Wagner contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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