Dangerous heat lingering over the District is impacting everything from Metro cars to walks in the park Friday, as a heat wave drives temperatures ever closer to 100 degrees. However, as the day ends, severe storms are starting to roll through the region.
The D.C. region was under an Excessive Heat Warning until 8 p.m. on Friday, and the warning will return from noon to 8 p.m. on Saturday. There was also a Severe Thunderstorm Warning in D.C. and many surrounding counties in Virginia and Maryland until 8 p.m. and 8:15 p.m. on Friday night.
Severe Thunderstorm Warnings are in effect east of the District in Queen Anne’s County, Maryland, until 10:45 p.m.
Damaging winds and rains from area thunderstorms brought down a tree outside Rockville, Maryland. According to Metro, that downed tree suspended service for Red Line riders between Shady Grove and Twinbrook stations. Shuttle bus services have been requested.
In the hours before the incident, amid serious heat, the rail service said its above ground trains would be changing the way they run to deal with the ongoing heat wave.
“Due to the extreme temperatures, all trains will operate 35 mph on all above ground tracks. Delays possible,” the agency said.
Pete Piringer, a Montgomery County Fire and Rescue spokesperson, said that the department was receiving “numerous calls and incident responses for wires down, trees down” and collisions across the Metro area. He also said several brush fires in Poolesville, Beallsville, Germantown and Gaithersburg may have been caused by downed power lines amid these storms.
“Isolated power outages [are] likely,” Piringer said.
Downed trees have also been reportedly blocking highways in Prince George’s County, Maryland, and Prince William County, Virginia.
Friday’s oppressive heat
“When it comes to weather-related fatalities, heat is the No. 1 killer, more than lightning, more than floods, more than tornadoes and hurricanes,” 7News First Alert Chief Meteorologist Veronica Johnson said.
Earlier, Johnson predicted the chance for storms from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday. However, she expects the threat to be less significant than Thursday’s wet weather, which brought scattered thunderstorms for several hours, mostly west of D.C.
The weather service advised people to drink plenty of fluids, stay in an air-conditioned room and check up on relatives and neighbors. If possible, the weather service encouraged people to move outdoor activities indoors until the early morning or late evening, when it won’t be as hot.
“We want folks, really, to heed what we’re saying here: 110 degrees is where the heat index may be for several hours [Friday]. Because of that, we’re not just under a heat advisory — we’re under an excessive heat warning, which is so rare for this area. The last one we had was four years back,” Johnson said.
Area leaders also reminded residents to look for signs of heat exhaustion.
“Dizziness, thirst, heavy sweating, nausea and weakness. If you experience any of those symptoms, move to a cool area, sip cool water. If you don’t see an abatement of those symptoms quickly, you need to seek medical assistance,” Montgomery County’s Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Dr. Earl Stoddard said.
As of Friday morning, people in the region already felt the heat’s effects.
“Humidity is not my friend,” Cindy Morrison, of California, told WTOP. “It’s the hottest day here in D.C.”
She isn’t alone. Olivia Cohen from New York tried to get out early to dodge the hot temperatures.
“I’m trying to avoid the heat, but it’s not working out,” Cohen said.
The heat continues Saturday. Much like Friday, temperatures could reach 100 degrees, and the heat index is expected to top out around 107 degrees. Thankfully, after some fiery weekend heat, the National Weather Service expects a cool down to lead into the coming week.
— NWS Baltimore-Washington (@NWS_BaltWash) July 28, 2023
Where to beat the heat and stay cool
D.C. is urging residents to stay cool and hydrated, check on older adults and other vulnerable neighbors, keep pets indoors and wear appropriate clothing and sunscreen.
The District has activated its Hot Weather Emergency through Sunday. D.C. spray parks and recreation centers have extended hours through Sunday, and cooling centers throughout the District will be available for those seeking relief from the heat.
Christopher Rodriguez, director of the District’s homeland security agency, said that Mayor Muriel Bowser’s declaration of a hot weather emergency this week allows the city to open cooling centers and other facilities so residents can beat the heat.
He urged residents to avoid strenuous activities outdoors whenever possible. A list of the District’s cooling centers can be found online.
“Do not underestimate the impact that this heat emergency is going to have on you. I know there’s a lot of people out there who want to go out for their runs, or want to spend a lot of time outside,” Rodriguez said.
“Limit your time outdoors, and make sure you stay hydrated. Because you’re dealing with triple-digit temperatures and the potential for a heat index of up to 110 degrees, you can very quickly feel those impacts.”
Plus, D.C. Public Schools have canceled all outdoor activities through Sunday.
Fairfax County has activated its Heat Plan for Friday. The county said its cooling centers will have supplies available, including bottled water, sunscreen, insect repellent and body wipes.
With the heat advisory, Loudoun County has designated some libraries, community centers and recreation centers to serve as cooling centers.
Alexandria County offers cooling centers at its libraries and recreation centers. The Potomac Yard Park Interactive Fountain operates from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
Prince William County has designated all its public libraries as cooling centers, and encourages residents to monitor the county’s Emergency Information Page in case any other cooling resources are announced.
Montgomery County has declared a heat emergency alert through Saturday at 8 p.m. In addition to cooling centers that are being made available to residents, passengers on Montgomery County Ride On buses will have access to free bottled water during service hours.
The county also warned pet parents to be mindful of furry friends, and to contact county animal control at 301-279-8000 if you see an animal who appears to be in danger.
“With temps rising quickly in the DMV, don’t leave your pets out in the extreme heat. Even animals who are used to living outdoors can be susceptible to the dangers of hot weather,” the department said.
Anne Arundel County offers cooling centers in public libraries, some district police station lobbies and senior centers.
Calvert County has issued a Severe Heat Alert and has designated libraries and community centers as cooling centers.
In Charles County, cooling centers are available at the Capital Clubhouse, the Richard R. Clark Senior Center, Nanjemoy Community Center and the Waldorf Senior & Recreational Center, as well as public libraries.
Prince George’s County offers cooling centers at some senior centers, community centers, recreation complexes and ice rinks. Residents are asked to check in at the facility’s front desk when they arrive.
Howard County has issued a Heat Alert and offers cooling centers at community centers, senior centers and libraries during their normal hours of operation. The county advises anybody who needs shelter or other assistance to call the Grassroots hotline at 410-531-6677.
Not just the nation’s capital
Across parts of the U.S., blazing temperatures are pushing us through what could be the hottest days of the year.
The National Weather Service’s latest estimates predict nearly 200 million people across the country are experiencing a heat advisory or flood warning or watch. They’ve been dealing with these weather warnings since Thursday, according to the agency.
While the East Coast region — through D.C., Philadelphia and New York City — feels like 100 degrees or more, with strong storms throughout the forecasts, areas of the Southwest and southern Plains are looking at temperatures between 10-15 degrees above average. For those states, high temperatures have settled in for the past few weeks.
“[Those areas] probably aren’t going to have a lot of sympathy for the rest of the country,” said Bob Oravec, lead forecaster with the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center.
Health experts continue urging people to recognize the signs and symptoms of heat-related illness while this dangerous heat peaks for the Northeast, mid-Atlantic and Midwest over the weekend. Relief is coming Sunday as storms and a cold front push into these areas.
FRIDAY NIGHT: A stray shower or storm possible early tonight; otherwise, partly cloudy with patchy fog, muggy. Temps: 70s to 80s. Winds: Southwest 5-10 mph.
SATURDAY: Hot and humid with scattered afternoon and evening storms. Temps: Mid to Upper 90s. Winds: Southwest at 8-10 mph. Heat Index: 100 to 108 degrees.
SUNDAY: Gradual clearing, cooler and less humid. Temps: Mid to upper 80s. Winds: Northwest 8-15 mph.
MONDAY AND TUESDAY: Mostly sunny and comfortable but warm. Temps: Low to mid-80s
WTOP’s Acacia James, Thomas Robertson, Jessica Kronzer, Abigail Constantino and The Associated Press contributed to this report.