- The Washington Times - Monday, July 17, 2006

Searing. Sweltering. Sizzling.

Forget the adjectives. It’s just plain hot, and it’s going to stay that way for the rest of the week.

“For Washington, D.C., it’s looking like the high is going to be right around 100 [degrees],” said Sarah Allen, a meteorologist in the National Weather Service’s Baltimore-Washington forecast office.

The District’s high temperature reached 96 degrees, and the record high for July 17 is 102 degrees.

But high humidity made it feel like more than 105 degrees in the District and around the region yesterday.

The desire to beat the heat drove electricity demand in the Mid-Atlantic region to a new record. Local utilities said they are geared up to handle this week’s heat.

“We have already exceeded the peak record that we set last summer, and usage continues to climb,” said Ray Dotter, spokesman for PJM, which runs the power grid on behalf of electric companies in the Mid-Atlantic region.

Mr. Dotter said the peak usage record set last July 26 was 133,763 megawatts, and he expected yesterday’s usage to peak at about 140,000 megawatts. One megawatt can power about 1,000 homes for a day.

“Right now, we are OK, and we can expect to be OK,” he said.

For those who can’t take the heat, there aren’t very many places around the country to escape to, weather forecasters say.

“Seventy-five percent of the country is experiencing temperatures of at least 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and the big high-pressure area that has dominated the West has shifted eastward,” said Dennis Feltgen, a meteorologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “So all the heat over the West has spread into the East.”

By midday yesterday, about a dozen states reported temperatures above 100 degrees, Mr. Feltgen said.

“On average, this is the hottest week of the summer,” said Bob Ryan, chief meteorologist for WRC-TV (Channel 4). “There is a lag between the time the sun is the strongest, in late June, and the time when the land heats up, which is now.”

High temperatures and high humidity typically produce poor air quality, and yesterday was no exception.

On the Mall, Danny Deyshen and his wife, Tai Li Su, visiting from Taiwan, sought shelter in an air-conditioned museum.

“She’s almost getting heat stroke,” said Mr. Deyshen, an American who plays trumpet for the Taipei Philharmonic Orchestra in Taiwan.

Officials cautioned residents to stay indoors, drink lots of water and pay careful attention to the young, the elderly and those in weak physical condition.

“I cannot emphasize enough the importance of checking on your elderly relatives, friends and neighbors. You never know when they may be in distress,” said S. Anthony McCann, Maryland’s health secretary.

No one is immune from heat. On Friday, 16-year-old golf prodigy Michelle Wie was forced to withdraw from the John Deere Classic in Silvis, Ill., and was treated for heat exhaustion at a hospital.

Nationally, there have been few reports of heat-related deaths. One involved a 3-year-old boy in South Bend, Ind., who locked himself in the family car in 90-degree heat Saturday and could not get out.

No local heat-related deaths have been reported.

Locally and around the country, officials set up “cooling centers,” where they distributed cold drinks and electric fans. The District also set up street showers in several areas and extended public pool hours.

At the Frank D. Reeves Center at 14th and U streets NW, a cooling center provided locals a chance to take a break.

“I just came down here to sit awhile. It gets to you,” said Janice Brown of Northwest, sipping a cup of water while peering out a window. “It’s the worst.”

The District’s Energy Department was offering dozens of fans for low-income families with children, senior citizens or someone with a documented respiratory illness. The fans are available on the third floor of the Reeves Center.

Local fire and rescue officials said they received more calls than usual.

“We are generally busier today than we are on a day when it’s 10 degrees cooler and there is no humidity,” said Alan Etter, D.C. fire department spokesman. “We’ve received a lot more calls around the Mall.”

The D.C. fire department dispatched its canteen unit, which distributes water and sports drinks to firefighters, to every fire in the District.

In addition, firefighters were being rotated in and out of fires more frequently, and emergency medical personnel were on hand to monitor their health.

Meanwhile, thunderstorms are expected as early as this evening, but weather forecasters said they do not expect severe weather.

Joyce Howard Price, Jacqueline Palank, Caroline Chon and Matthew Cella contributed to this report.

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