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Sizzling temperatures get a jump on summer

Olde Towne Carriages driver Tony DeMonti sponges down draft horse Patricia  in front of the Fredericksburg Visitors Center.  With temperatures soaring and the humidity high, the company cancelled its carriage tours Tuesday and again today.   PETER CIHELKA/THE FREE LANCE–STAR

Olde Towne Carriages driver Tony DeMonti sponges down draft horse Patricia in front of the Fredericksburg Visitors Center. With temperatures soaring and the humidity high, the company cancelled its carriage tours Tuesday and again today. PETER CIHELKA/THE FREE LANCE–STAR

The temperature hit a feverish 92 degrees Tuesday, making it Fredericksburg’s hottest day of 2014 so far.

Today is projected to be even hotter, with the high possibly reaching 97 degrees. The forecast calls for temperatures to stay in the 90s again Thursday before cooling slightly heading into the weekend and the official start of summer Saturday.

As the mercury climbed Tuesday, local residents sought ways to cool off in Old Mill Park. Along the Rappahannock River shoreline, many people were swimming and playing in the water, but few were wearing life vests as recommended.

Fredericksburg resident Crystal Gischer, 35, cast her fishing line into the Rappahannock after taking a dip in the river to escape the heat.

“The water feels really good. It’s cool. Just the right temperature,” Gischer said.

She said she stayed in the shallow water and avoided going too deep because she knows there are sinkholes in the river that can be dangerous.

“You have to be careful, but people are trying to cool off,” she added.

To be as safe as possible in the Rappahannock, area officials urge people to wear a life vest at all times. Nearly 90 people have drowned in the river since 1972.

It isn’t just people who need to be careful in the heat. Olde Towne Carriages canceled its historical tours of Fredericksburg because the horses that pull the carriages could get too hot.

Patricia, a 12-year-old draft horse, can normally pull the 1,000-pound carriage easily, but with the heat index approaching 105 degrees today, she will stay at the farm in Hartwood where she is stabled.

The heat affected commuter trains, too. Virginia Railway Express placed heat restrictions on the Fredericksburg line Monday and Tuesday, which caused delays in schedules.

CSX usually issues a heat restriction any time the temperature approaches 90 degrees or more. Heat restrictions are typically announced by VRE in the early afternoon.

A pocket of stagnate air is trapping moisture and humidity over the area, causing temperatures to soar, said Calvin Meadows, an observing program leader at the National Weather Service’s office in Sterling. The National Weather Service recommends people reduce exposure to the sun, wear light clothing and drink plenty of liquids to protect themselves in the heat, Meadows said.

With the rising temperatures, power consumption tends to rise as well.

“It’s important to note the electricity used to heat or cool a home makes up about 46 percent of the typical utility bill,” said Dominion Virginia Power spokeswoman Daisy Pridgeon.

Local air-conditioning companies are feeling the heat, along with residents whose units can’t keep up with the temperatures.

Comfort Heating and Cooling in southern Stafford County receives an influx of service calls whenever a heat wave rolls through, said owner and manager Eileen Bourne.

To keep energy costs low while running an air conditioner during hot weather, Dominion Virginia Power suggests keeping the thermostat set at 78 degrees.

Closing the shades and curtains during the hottest part of the day will help keep out some of the heat, Pridgeon said. She added that a ceiling fan can cool a space by up to 10 percent because of the windchill effect it creates.

Forecasters say relief is only a few days away. By Thursday night, a cold front in Pennsylvania should travel to Northern Virginia, bringing drier, cooler air with it, Meadows said.

Temperatures should fall to the mid-80s when the heat breaks late Thursday or Friday morning.

Katie Shepherd 540/374-5417

kshepherd@freelancestar.com

 

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