Area in for more hot, humid weather

Posted: July 16, 2013

The Winchester Star

Winchester Royals baseball assistant coach Daniel Payne cools down with a cold drink of water after the team finished its practice early Monday afternoon at Bridgeforth Field in Jim Barnett Park. The Royals were traveling to Woodstock to play the River Bandits Monday night. (Photo by Ginger Perry/The Winchester Star)

WINCHESTER — If you enjoyed Monday’s hot weather, then you will likely love the rest of the week.

Calvin Meadows, meteorologist with the National Weather Services’s forecast office in Sterling, says local residents can expect Monday’s weather — with highs in the low 90s — again today — and Wednesday and Thursday.

“There is a big high [pressure system] over the area and it’s going to remain in place for the rest of the week,” Meadows said Monday.

Highs will be in the low 90s today and could push up a degree or two on Wednesday and Thursday.

As usual with July days in the Mid-Atlantic, that high will also pump in moist air, pushing up the humidity and making the temperatures feel even hotter — with a heat index in the upper 90s.

The only relief in sight is a low-pressure system that could push into the area Friday and possibly spark some thunderstorms as it moves through.

Meadows does not expect the four-day heat wave to set any records. He said the three-day heat wave of 1988 is the record-holder for this area. That year saw temperatures of 100.7, 100 and 99.7 degrees beginning July 18.

But the promise of 90-degree marks for four straight days has prompted the Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative, which serves Winchester and parts of Frederick and Clarke counties, to ask its members to conserve.

Multiple hot days over a short period cause an even greater demand for electricity, said SVEC spokesman Mike Aulgur, because systems are working harder, and give off more heat themselves. The ambient heat in houses and businesses builds up over time.

“Then the equipment has to work even harder to keep up,” he said.

Cooperative members can help the situation, Aulgur said, by taking a few simple steps.

First, he said, drawing the curtains reflects heat from windows back outside.

Another way members can conserve is by setting their thermostat two to four degrees higher.

Unplugging unnecessary electronics can also help. That cellphone charger can be unplugged when not in use as can the coffee pot and other electrical appliances, especially those that draw current even when not in use — such as the ones with built-in clocks.

Running the dishwasher or the washing machine after 9 p.m. — well past peak load times — can also help.

None of these things will make a big difference in an individual household, Aulgur said, but when multiplied by 3,000 households, “we really have something.”

The lower consumption helps the entire system, and helps hold down the cost to members, he added.

While looking out for the electrical grid, residents should be looking out for themselves, too, said Dr. Charles Devine, head of the Lord Fairfax Health District, which includes Winchester and Frederick and Clarke counties.

The human body cools by sweating, Devine said, so the most important rule in a heat wave is to drink plenty of water.

“We like to suggest you avoid caffeinated, sugared or alcoholic beverages, as they tend to dehydrate you,” he added.

Limit your physical activity, Devine added, especially during the first really hot days of summer.

“Your body is not really acclimated to heat early in the summer.”

Staying inside is advisable for those who have air-conditioning, and for those who don’t, staying in a public place with air-conditioning — such as the library — can be helpful.

For those without air-conditioning, a fan will move air, evaporating moisture on the skin and making it easier to stay cool.

Those who must go outside should dress in light-weight and light-colored clothing, which will reflect the sun’s energy.

“Hats are helpful, as are umbrellas,” Devine said. And don’t forget the sunscreen.

And, he said, if you must work outside, go back to step one and drink plenty of water.

Devine said extreme heat is hardest on the elderly, and reminded those with older neighbors to check on them.

And, never leave children or pets in closed cars.

“The temperature in a closed car can reach 150 degrees very quickly,” he said.

— Contact Val Van Meter at vvanmeter@winchesterstar.com