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Posted at 12:30 PM ET, 07/24/2008

Can You Take the Heat?

By Capital Weather Gang

Wx and the City

By Ann Posegate

Squishy, gushy, ooey-gooey, slimy-whimy, and disgusting. This is how a group of fourth-graders described the process of dissecting clams on a field trip I helped to teach on the Anacostia River last year. For some reason, these are the first words that come to mind when I think about our recent heat wave (the high at Reagan National Airport was 92 or higher July 16-22). Add to that: simply oppressive.

How do you deal with heat - or do you? What about Washington summers really gets to you? Is it the temperature, humidity, poor air quality, city grit that sticks to your face, annoying sweat stains on clothing, mosquito-breeding, or all of the above? Or maybe you don't think this summer has been all that bad?

Keep reading for more of Ann's take on our recent heat. Also, see our full forecast into early next week.

I talked with a few new-to-D.C. residents within the past week, and all of them seemed to be surprised by just how hot and humid it was. They had heard about the area's summer climate, but weren't expecting it to be this bad.

It seems to me that, in general, transplanted residents never fully acclimate to summertime heat and humidity in this region. Though I do think one gradually adapts. But, is the change physical or psychological? Once you accept the fact that you WILL be saturated with sweat as soon as you step outside, do the conditions become more bearable?

Whether you're new to D.C., just visiting or a native Washingtonian, here are some tips for staying safe from heat. Even though slightly cooler temperatures have now arrived, never fear: heat is near.

By Capital Weather Gang  | July 24, 2008; 12:30 PM ET
Categories:  Extreme Heat, Posegate, Wx and the City  
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Next: CommuteCast: A Much-Deserved Break


DC/NoVA summers certainly do get hot and humid, but I don't think it really compares to the truly oppressive humidity of the deep South, nor the blast-furnace dry heat of places like Las Vegas or Phoenix. No coping necessary for me, as I prefer hot/humid over cold/wet (since we never get any SNOW here). I moved to this area in 1988, having grown up in northern PA -- I don't think Washington summers are any hotter or "humid-er" than they were at times when I was growing up in PA.

I do remember when first moving here, fresh out of college, that I weighed about 215 from too much food and other indulgences in school; 1988 had many 100+ degree days that summer, and after helping a friend brick in his patio on weeknights and on weekends for about half the summer, I had dropped my weight to 175! Yep, it was THAT hot...

Posted by: VAStateOfMind | July 24, 2008 12:53 PM | Report abuse

OMG, I moved to DC from upstate New York in the late summer of 1988 and just about died. I was relieved to find that the unbearable heat of 1988 was unusual. The mosquitoes in my inside-the-beltway neighborhood are a bigger summertime annoyance than the heat.

On a side note, the weather and electricity use the 1988 summer resulted in unusually high levels of air pollution across the eastern U.S. Powerplants in Ohio, PA, WV, TN and Virginia pumped out pollution (and electricity) that flowed into the Amtrak corridor. Two years later, we got the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 that required big cuts in emissions from powerplants.

Posted by: Josey23 | July 24, 2008 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Being a transplant from a decidedly cooler climate, you might think that I would have issues with the DC heat. However, like many (most?) folks I never HAVE to be in the heat for any length of time.

Posted by: MDScot | July 24, 2008 1:27 PM | Report abuse

I grew up outside Rochester NY, which was quite hot and humid in the summer, and have basically moved from one river valley to another (St Louis, Boston, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh) until I came here, so it's been humidity all the way. Personally, I'd rather be warm than cold, and I have more problems with A/C that keeps me from dressing for the weather. As far as working outside goes, once I'm soaking wet, I can't get any wetter, so as long as I have water to drink I'm fine.
So, while I am concerned about the numbers, this summer hasn't felt hotter than I have experienced. I DO hate the tiger mosquitos - they're the real spoilers, not the heat!

Posted by: RobinD | July 24, 2008 1:43 PM | Report abuse

More humidity on the way--WGN. Tom Skilling has dewpoints rising from Gulf to Canadian border in Midwest.

This summer I have good AC at home. Currently 83F, 30.04 rising.

Posted by: El Bombo | July 24, 2008 1:43 PM | Report abuse

One more vote for mosquitoes as way more annoying than the heat/humidity.

Moved here in the early 90s from a place with much nicer weather and until a year or two ago, I really hated the summer heat. Then, I just got resigned to it, and now I think of it as part of the season.

Posted by: Huntington Mark | July 24, 2008 2:48 PM | Report abuse

I actually find that the more time I spend in the heat, the less I feel it. Maybe it's just because this story from last summer, about how our bodies adapt to the heat by making heat-shock proteins, has me feeling overconfident, but I've found that it's not that bad to go hiking in the park, in the shade, even in this weather.

Posted by: csdiego | July 24, 2008 2:54 PM | Report abuse

My biggest complaint with DC weather is the number of thunderstorms (like June? :P), and the number that pop up when they weren't forecast and the one's that don't pop up when they were forecast. :P

I am trying very hard to be active this summer (and beyond, of course) to get healthy, and outdoor walks/biking is an important component of this. There were days when I didn't go out because of dire-sounding weather forecasts, and I wasted a lovely day and afternoon when nothing at all developed. There were days when nothing was forecast, the skies were totally blue, I'd take my usual break in the bookstore, and when I got out, the skies were dark and ominous, and I'd get soaked before getting home.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 24, 2008 3:23 PM | Report abuse

This summer really hasn't been that bad. We've had worse heat and humidity than the recent heat wave, I think. I dunno, places like Savannah and New Orleans are much worse.

I've also noticed that since I committed to get in a little better shape physically, the heat bothers me a lot less. I used to avoid doing anything in the heat, and now I don't really have to.

Posted by: Southside FFX | July 24, 2008 7:53 PM | Report abuse

I should have mentioned that I grew up in New England, so we certainly had some humid days. The only real difference I notice here is that when we had a cold front move through growing up (like yesterday, for example), the next morning always felt REALLY crisp. It certainly feels better the next day here, but not that crisp, clear blue sky I remember. The moisture from the night before just seems to hang around longer here.

Also, before I moved here I lived in the Southwest, where we of course had no humidity (except for Phoenix, which has a ridiculous amount of irrigation that creates humidity). The increased intensity of the sun made it just as hot, if not hotter.

Posted by: Southside FFX | July 24, 2008 7:58 PM | Report abuse

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