- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 8, 2012

The excruciating heat that smothered the mid-Atlantic under triple-digit temperatures came to an end Sunday, leaving in its wake buckled roadways, kinked train tracks, withered yards and a newfound sense of what it means to be hot.

A weak cold front moving into northern Maryland should make for “relatively cooler temperatures,” National Weather Service meteorologist Andy Woodcock said, which “is a joke to say the upper 80s.”

“The average maximum temperature for July is supposed to be 87 or 88 degrees,” Mr. Woodcock said. “We’re going to cool down to the norm.”

The cool front could bring rain and thunderstorms, Mr. Woodcock said, though nothing to compare to the ferocious derecho storm June 29 that knocked out power to more than a million people and was linked to roughly 30 deaths nationwide.

Sunday marked the 10th consecutive day that the D.C. area suffered through temperatures 94 degrees or hotter, beating the eight-day record set in 2002.

A new record high was set Saturday when the mercury topped out at 105, 3 degrees hotter than the 2010 record for July 7. Saturday only dropped as low as 82 degrees, breaking another record held by July 7, 2010, with the highest minimum temperature.

According to the National Weather Service, this is the sixth-hottest summer on record, despite it being only a third of the way through the season.

The weekend heat was a bookend to the sweltering temperatures from last week, which were compounded by the storm that left many without air conditioning or working refrigerators for a full week.

By Sunday, power companies had lowered their affected customer numbers far from the six-figure reports from last week, though the late-afternoon storm that swept through the area gave a temporary spike to the number of customers in the dark.

“This has been really bad,” Mr. Woodcock said, talking about the cumulative effect of heat exposure. “One of the worst things is that so many people have been without power for so long. … The longer it goes on, it gets harder for people.”

The problem with so many consecutive days of extreme heat is that there’s no time to cool off.

“The nights are getting longer, and even if it’s hotter during the day, we’ll do some cooling off at night,” Mr. Woodcock said. “Now, with the exceedingly hot days and nighttime lows of 85 to 90, it’s very hard on the human body and life forms in general.”

People and their pets have had a hard week, but roads and railways have also had their fair share of problems.

A US Airways plane parked at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport sunk into what is being called a “soft spot” on the tarmac. Its three dozen passengers and crew had to disembark so that the plane could be tugged from the rut before taking off. No injuries were reported.

Officials for Metro said the extreme heat was the cause of a train derailment near the West Hyattsville Metrorail station Friday.

The Virginia Department of Transportation issued a warning to drivers that the heat can cause “buckling” pavement. At least one incident of buckling was reported along 395 near Seminary Road in Alexandria.

VDOT’s state materials engineer, Andy Babish, said that buckling is prompted by pavement expanding in the heat and “cannot contract if it does not cool down enough overnight. It continues to expand, and that’s when we could see damage.”

In addition to the heat, many areas, including the South and Southern Maryland, also are dealing with drought.

The furious downpour June 29 did not provide enough rain to ease worries of a drought. The District is currently classified as abnormally dry, and along with Virginia, is “on the cusp” of a drought, said National Weather Service meteorologist Jared Klein.

• Elizabeth Sallie contributed to this report.



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