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Residents look to beat heat

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Robert Spitler, 38, cools off his pit bull, Scrappy, in the Shenandoah River near Narrow Passage Creek, south of Woodstock. While no records were expected to be broken Tuesday, temperatures were 10 to 15 degrees above normal, according to a National Weather Service forecaster. Rich Cooley/Daily

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By Ben Orcutt -- borcutt@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL -- Residents of the Northern Shenandoah Valley were looking for relief Tuesday from the sweltering heat any way they could find it.

For Dominique Nickens, 23, it meant spending time with her 21⁄2-year-old son Aries in the kiddie pool at Royal Arms Apartments.

"Way too hot," Nickens said, adding that the pool was a refreshing way to cool off. "Yeah, it's really, really good considering earlier today this side of town lost power for a little while. So we came out, figured we'd cool off."

George Thomas, 30, who lives in the apartments with his wife, Kara, and their four children said going to the pool was a way to cool off without being cooped up inside.

"Cooling off and wearing the kids out," Thomas said is what he hoped to accomplish so the children would be ready for bed.

Kevin Witt, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service's Baltimore-Washington Forecast Office in Sterling, said temperatures in the valley were expected to hit the mid-90s on Tuesday, and the combination of the heat and humidity were to make for an "oppressive" day.

While no records were expected to be set, Witt said temperatures on Tuesday were expected to be 10 to 15 degrees above normal.

"For Wednesday we're looking at a front coming through," Witt said. "We're going to start off with a good bit of sunshine during the morning, maybe some low clouds in parts of the valley. Maybe even some patchy fog to start the day. Then sunshine in the early afternoon. Then we're probably going to see increasing clouds mid- to late afternoon with some showers and storm[s] developing ahead of a cold front, and that cold front's going to be pushing through sometime [this] evening. So during the afternoon and evening we're going to see showers and storms developing."

Witt said temperatures for today would be 6 to 10 degrees below the highs for Tuesday.

"We are in a slight risk right now for some severe weather, but nothing to worry about immediately like a watch or warning," Witt said of today's forecast. "But with the front approaching and this heat and humidity ahead of it, it's not out of the question to get some storms on the stronger side."

Allen Bolton, 69, of Front Royal, took advantage of a breeze blowing at Gertrude E. Miller Park to cool off from Tuesday's heat. Bolton had a cold bottle of water with him as he sat at a picnic table under a shelter.

"Today's one of the worst days of the year," Bolton said.

Bolton said he likes to come to the park next to Happy Creek because there's always a breeze blowing at the shelter.

"Yeah, if you don't want to be stuck in your bedroom all the time ... sitting in the air-conditioning," Bolton said. "I like to come down here and catch a breeze. I don't like air-conditioning that much."

Bolton was joined at the park on Tuesday by his son, James Scott, 45, who had a bottle of Gatorade with him.

"I [was] just sitting down here getting in the shade," Scott said. "Being in that sun is hot."

Dr. Charlie Devine III, director of the Lord Fairfax Health District, said there are two factors at work when the weather is as oppressive as it's been.

"One is the hot weather and the other is [the] effect of the hot weather and sunlight, which is the air quality," Devine said. "Regarding the hot weather, we'd like folks to pay extra attention to hydration, drinking plenty of fluid, dressing appropriately in lightweight, loose-fitting clothing and avoiding exercise or work during the height of the mid-day sun.

"Regarding air quality, there is an air-quality alert for sensitive groups. The air quality is such that [the] ozone is going to be elevated and that elevation is great enough that we might see it affect folks with lung disease, such as asthma or with COPD [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease] or perhaps older adults or children exposed."

Devine had simple advice for dealing with the hot weather.

"You want to take it slowly," he said. "As we move more into the summer season, people's bodies will adapt ... to the heat and become more efficient at working in the heat and less likely to have problems. But folks right now at the very beginning of the season are not well-acclimated, [and] are at greater risk for heat-related [problems].

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