- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 3, 2006

The heat broke no records yesterday, but it felt like it. The heat index reached 112 degrees.

The mercury peaked at 99 degrees at about 4 p.m., only 1 degree below the record of 100 set in 2002, according to the National Weather Service.

Temperatures today are expected to be in the high 90s. The record is 100 degrees, set in 1930. Today’s heat index is expected to be 110 degrees with a slight chance of thunderstorms.

There were no reports of heat-related deaths in the region, but the combination of high temperatures and poor air quality sent some people to hospitals and kept many indoors. Some streets appeared deserted in mid-afternoon.

Alan Etter, D.C. Fire Department spokesman, said counting the number who needed treatment yesterday wouldn’t be possible because so many ailments can be considered heat-related.

Forecasters said this string of near-100-degree days is caused by the high-pressure air masses that have marched across the country, creating record high temperatures and causing as many as 180 heat-related deaths from California through the Midwest.

“It’s been hard to cope with the heat,” said Lois Cunningham, 50, visiting from Riverside, Calif. “The humidity’s the problem. We don’t have that in California.”

Andy Woodcock, a National Weather Service meteorologist, said the heat will dissipate tomorrow, when a cold front north of New York and Vermont dips into this area, bringing thunderstorms.

The front’s northwesterly winds could also push the heat wave back at least into the Rocky Mountains, he said. Temperatures are expected to return to seasonal mid- and upper-80s by Saturday.

Electric companies are reporting record-breaking demands for energy.

Robert Dobkin, a spokesman for Potomac Electric Power Co, said the record for most electricity consumption — set July 27, 2005 — was broken Tuesday at 5 p.m.

He said the demand was so high yesterday that he expects another record.

Pepco is encouraging customers to conserve energy by closing drapes to block sunlight from entering the house, turning thermostats up from 72 degrees to 78 degrees and using portable fans.

“Saving a little bit of energy can make a difference,” Mr. Dobkin said.

He also said there is plenty of energy but “the longer the heat wave lasts, the more possible the outages because of equipment problems.”

Baltimore Gas and Electricity said its record for energy consumption also was broken Tuesday, and it expected that record to be broken yesterday.

Dominion Virginia Power, the state’s largest utility, expected electricity demand to break the record set on July 27, 2005. Dominion spokesman David Botkins said the demand peaked Tuesday from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., when people returned home from work and turned down the thermostat.

The Washington Council of Governments forecasted a Code Red air quality index for yesterday, which is considered unhealthy. However, the quality never exceeded Code Yellow, which is moderate, a council spokeswoman said.

“I’m not used to dripping with sweat like this,” said Sarah Resnik, 31, visiting from New Mexico. “I can’t remember the last time I was so hot. But I don’t mind as much because there’s so much to see.”

Like many visitors, Miss Resnik limited some of her sightseeing to air-conditioned museums.

Lon Anderson, spokesman for American Automobile Association, said calls for emergency road service had increased 37 percent since Sunday, before the heat wave struck the area. The group receives about 5,400 calls during a typical July but received about 7,500 on Tuesday, with more pouring in yesterday.

Mr. Anderson said heat has a “severe impact” on cars, especially batteries.

The Montgomery County Department of Health handed out fans to the elderly, adults with disabilities and needy residents.

Arlington Transit gave free bus rides yesterday.

Metro gave free rides on designated bus routes in suburban Maryland and Virginia.

In the District, cooling centers and street showers were opened, fans were distributed to the needy and swimming-pool hours were increased.

Maryland’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene issued an extreme heat advisory in anticipation that the heat index could reach 105 degrees in every county but Garrett.

The Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department reported no heat-related emergency calls by mid-afternoon yesterday.

“People obviously are heeding the warnings and advice from officials,” agency spokesman Dan Schmidt said.

The county is also keeping open its recreation centers and providing cool drinks to visitors, he said.

Nelly Gruhlke, of Maryland, said the heat was unpleasant, but it couldn’t compare to her native Philippines.

“It’s OK as long as I have my umbrella,” she said.

Staff writer Arlo Wagner and wire service reports contributed to this article.

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