- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Residents of the Greater Washington area are no strangers to summer heat, but Mother Nature is preparing an especially intense baking for this weekend, with local governments and organizations bracing for a string of potentially triple-digit days and urging caution, common sense, lots of fluids and extra time indoors.

All weekend, the air temperature will be in the mid- to upper-90s, but with the heat index it will feel over 100 degrees. On Saturday, the National Weather Service is forecasting a heat index — a combination of air temperature and humidity — of as high as 109 degrees.

According to the NWS, when heat indexes are in the mid 90s, people should use “extreme caution” but as the heat index rises to 103, the likelihood of “heat disorders with prolonged exposure or strenuous activity” is increased to “dangerous.”

Already 11 states have issued heat advisories for this weekend. Cities such as Detroit and Boston, with a July temperature averages hovering around 82 or 83 degrees, are going to feel close to 105.

“Daytime hours when the sun is out is clearly our highest risk periods,” said Dr. Michael Kaufmann, EMS medical director with the Indiana Department of Homeland Security told The Associated Press. “We’re not expecting the drops in temperature at night — or the humidity — that we often realize when the sun goes down. We’re asking people to take precautions during the day or night. If at all possible, have a cool place you can go to, someplace where you can get out of the heat.”

Washington is known to have hot summers, even though the average temperature in July has hovered at 89 degrees. But Wednesday was the seventh day of 90-degree weather in Washington, and this weekend’s forecast extends that sweltering heat for another five days.

“We’ve definitely had high heat indexes in the past,” Jeremy Geiger, a meteorologist from the NWS, said in an interview. “We do tend to get one or two days of the high heat index over 100. It’s not normal, but it’s not out of the question to happen.”

The federal weather experts strongly advise children, the elderly and those without air conditioning to take extra care this weekend. Montgomery County Council member Tom Hucker, a Democrat from District 5, has introduced a bill to require county landlords to provide air conditioning to their tenants, arguing climate change will only make heat waves like this weekend’s more of a threat.

“As climate change worsens, we are going to see hotter days for longer periods of time, so it will be more important than ever that tenants have access to a safe and cool environment,” he said in a statement.

Montgomery County on Monday activated a “hyperthermia plan,” including encouraging homeless shelters to stay open during the day. Public libraries and government buildings will also have “cooling centers.”

Heat emergency plans are also being implemented in the District, as happens when temperatures or heat indexes reach 95 degrees. Cooling centers will be available in District recreation facilities, public libraries and senior wellness centers.

Residents are encouraged to reschedule their activities this weekend to spend less time outside during the hottest times of the day. Mr. Geiger said “the biggest thing” is to stay hydrated, but the NWS also suggests limiting time outside to the morning and evening when the temperatures are cooler.

The National Gallery of Art is hosting a “Jazz in the Garden” event Friday evening. Isabella Bulkeley, a publicist with the Gallery, said they have water fountains available and “fans that we can hand people who are especially hot.”

On Saturday morning, the first “Grand African Run” will be at The Yards Park in Southeast Washington along the Anacostia River. The NWS says athletes should limit strenuous activity in such high temperatures but Surafel Shiferaw, also known as DJ Phatsu, one of the race organizers, told The Washington Times organizers are not worried about the stress on participants.

“It’s going to be in the morning, so the weather will be good. The event ends at [noon] so the weather will be mild,” he said. “If it were in the afternoon, it would be horrible.”

Race officials will have a medic on site and four water stations along the route, both of which are common at a 5K event. The 10-day forecast in and around Washington states that temperatures could reach the mid-90s by noon.

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