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Region copes with scorching Independence Day

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Photo - Ian Dowell sucks on a popsicle to overcome the midday heat at the Independence Day parade in downtown Washington on July 4, 2012.
Ian Dowell sucks on a popsicle to overcome the midday heat at the Independence Day parade in downtown Washington on July 4, 2012.
Local,DC,Maryland,Virginia,Kytja Weir

Some holiday week. At the start of the Fourth of July, more than 96,000 homes in the Washington region remained without power, grappling with day five of spoiled groceries and no air conditioning or electricity.

And some won't get respite until Friday night, according to local power companies.

Meanwhile, temperatures remained in the high 90s for yet another day and are expected to stay there for the next three days. Daily highs aren't expected to dip below 90 degrees until Tuesday.

Outages continue
As of 5 p.m. Wednesday, 38,183 of the 443,000 Pepco customers remained in the dark since Friday's storms, while 19,992 of the 540,000 Dominion Power customers still had no power. BGE had 4,948 in Prince George's without power and another 322 in Montgomery.
Pepco was projecting to have nearly all lines back up by 11 p.m. Friday, though a few thousand in remote or heavily damaged areas may not get power back until later in the weekend, said spokesman Clay Anderson.
Dominion Power also expected to have everyone's power back up in Northern Virginia by the end of the day Friday, though other parts of the Shenandoah Valley and Charlottesville might remain powerless until Sunday night.

Temperatures are supposed to peak on Saturday at 103. With the heat index, which takes into account the humidity, it will feel even hotter this week -- up to 105 degrees, said National Weather Service meteorologist Jared Klein.

But no, it's not as hot as the past two summers, the hottest on record. 2010 earned top honors with an average temperature of 81.3 degrees from June 1 through Aug. 31, Klein said, while last year came in second with 81.1 degrees.

This year is only the 13th hottest summer so far on record, with an average of 77.2 degrees through Tuesday.

But that didn't necessarily make the thousands still without electricity feel much better in the heat. Bethesda's Green Acres neighborhood posted protest signs including a hand-written "Pull the Plug on Pepco," under a "Keep Maryland Beautiful" street sign.

"We've got a lot of irate people out there," said Dominion Power's Chuck Penn. "It's hot, and people don't have their power."

Both agencies had thousands of crews and bucket trucks working Wednesday. "It's no holiday for the folks who are in the field," said Pepco spokesman Clay Anderson. They faced a small setback Tuesday night, when another round of storms knocked out power. About 3,000 Pepco customers lost power, while 5,500 Northern Virginia customers lost it with Dominion Power. But all were restored.

Bill Teed, who lives in Arlington, was among those who lost power for about 24 hours after the first storm and then lost it again for just over an hour Tuesday night, after another round of storms. "This time, we had all the flashlights out," he said.

Others also seemed to be coping.

"This is nothing," said Jacob Brundage, who was operating a pedicab through the tourist-thick areas. The former professional marathoner recalled last summer when he downed 480 ounces of Gatorade -- that's 15 bottles at 32 oz. each -- all without using the restroom.

Still, people moved strategically. Visitors to the Fourth of July parade walked slowly, taking advantage of every pocket of shade. Many said they were drinking lots of water. Cindy Johnson marched alongside the Appleton East marching band from Wisconsin. She wasn't playing an instrument, but instead had her own key role as she handed water bottles to the formally dressed band members when their instruments weren't supposed to be thrumming out patriotic tunes.

And some visitors found that D.C.'s weather was unfortunately familiar.

"It feels very much like home," said Janice Wilder, who was visiting for the holiday from San Antonio with her family.

Bhubanasuneri Baskarajan took literal umbrage under a small umbrella fitted around her head as a hat as she walked with her husband around the Mall. She joked that her last name means sun king at home in India, but she bought the goofy hat to help her bear the pounding sun.

"It's much like India," she said. "But we don't move in the afternoon."

Even so, the heat didn't stop people from drinking hot coffee -- if it was free. Ruth Tes, who was finishing up an eight-hour shift at the Starbucks at 15th and K street in Northwest, said a lot of people had been coming in all day and asking for the free hot coffee offered by the chain as part of Independence Day. "People love their coffee," she said.

kweir@washingtonexaminer.com

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