- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Summer heat baked the District for a third day Monday, prompting city officials to open cooling centers, and hundreds of Metro riders sweltered without air conditioning on a derailed train.

Power companies asked residents to conserve electricity because of mounting demand, even as 2,000 homes remained blacked out from last week’s storm. Several schools were dismissed early because of a lack of air conditioning.

At the National Zoo, where actor Harrison Ford joined World Bank President Robert B. Zoellick to announce a global initiative to save the world’s tigers, the big cats were fed cooling “bloodsicles” made of frozen cow’s blood and water.

An Orange Line Metro train derailed between the Rosslyn and Courthouse stations in Northern Virginia at about 2:45 p.m., the hottest part of the day. Metro officials said 412 passengers were stuck in the tunnel without light or air conditioning for about 70 minutes.

No injuries were reported, but a pregnant woman was taken to a hospital for an evaluation.

Metro spokeswoman Cathy Asato said it was not clear whether the incident was caused by the heat.

“We cannot guess,” she said. “Underground is usually cooler anyway. Heat is usually an issue of aboveground. It’s way too early to pinpoint a cause.”

National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Keith Holloway said the agency would monitor Metro’s handling of the incident and decide later whether to investigate.

In June 2007, Metro General Manager John B. Catoe pledged to update parts of electrical circuitry in tunnels after hot and humid weather caused problems that left several trains without power during the morning rush hour one day.

Monday’s incident occurred as temperatures climbed into the mid-90s for the third straight day. However, no records were broken.

The high temperatures were 96 degrees at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, 94 at Washington Dulles International Airport and 94 at Thurgood MarshallBaltimore-Washington International Airport.

D.C. fire department spokesman Alan Etter said there was a small increase in the number of calls for service for heat-related illnesses during the past few days, but he had no official numbers.

Mr. Etter warned pedestrians - particularly tourists who are unfamiliar with the District’s oppressive humidity - to be careful in the heat.

“A lot of folks come from out of town and aren’t prepared for this heat,” he said. “They’re out there walking around all day and get to the hotel and realize ‘Holy cow, I’m in trouble.’”

Debbie Wooten, 45, who was visiting the District from Philadelphia with her family, said the heat and humidity was nothing new to her.

“We’re used to the humidity; we were just hoping it would leave us alone on vacation,” she said.

The D.C. Homeland Security and Emergency Management Department opened the city’s four cooling centers to help residents survive the heat.

More than 2,000 area residents were still without power following last week’s storms, and air conditioning gave out over the weekend at Waverly House, a senior living facility in Bethesda.

Students attending some middle and high schools in Prince George’s County were dismissed early because their buildings did not have air conditioning.

There have been no heat-related deaths in the region reported so far.

Nationally, however, 10 deaths were blamed on stormy weekend weather, most in the Midwest. Wisconsin Gov. James E. Doyle declared an emergency for 29 counties, and President Bush late Sunday declared a major disaster in 29 Indiana counties. Iowa Gov. Chet Culver said nearly a third of his state’s 99 counties needed federal help.

New York City’s Office of Emergency Management yesterday opened 300 cooling centers.

Baltimore Gas and Electric and PJM, the electric-power grid for 13 states and the District, yesterday announced an electric-power advisory. The companies expect to have enough electricity to meet the heavy demand for power, but asked customers to conserve.

On D.C. streets Monday, hawkers had a busy day selling bottled water and sports drinks to motorists at busy intersections.

Leroy Johnson stood at the corner of Okie Street and New York Avenue Northeast looking to capitalize on the brutal weather.

“It’s a slow business, but if you get a blaze like this and traffic stays busy, you can really make some money,” he said.

Mr. Johnson said he had seen some vendors sell enough drinks to fill three large coolers.

City officials say they regularly enforce vending laws, but sometimes have a hard time keeping up with the unlicensed sellers who frequently move to new locations.

“We know some main areas where they are, and we go out there and ticket them,” said D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs spokesman Michael Rupert.

Mr. Rupert said DCRA inspectors team up with the Metropolitan Police Department once or twice a week to issue citations for vending without a license, which range from $50 to $2,000.

cGary Emerling, Tim Warren and Benjamin Newell contributed to this story, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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