Water crisis amid stifling heat in Maryland avoided

July 17, 2013 at 3:57 PM
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BOWIE, Md., July 17 (UPI) -- Officials in suburban Washington said they managed to avoid a lengthy water shutoff for as many as 200,000 customers during emergency repairs to a water main.

Water was cut off Wednesday to residents in Prince Georges County, Md., as temperatures soared. Initial estimates indicated 150,000 to 200,000 residents in the communities of Temple Hills, Morningside, Forest Heights and Oxon Hill might have had to go without water for three to five days.

Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission General Manager Jerry Johnson said Wednesday crews would divert water to the affected area and the system would have an ample supply if customers conserve water, WUSA-TV, Washington, reported.

"Workers 'unfroze' and closed a key valve near the failing pipe," Johnson told the TV station. "This greatly reduced the amount of pipeline that had to be shut down to make repairs to the failing 54-inch Forestville pipe."

Johnson said mandatory restrictions on water use announced Tuesday night will remain in effect until the main is fixed.

Residents were urged to limit water use to preserve any water still in the pipe, to stock up on water and fill bathtubs with water to flush toilets, NBC news reported.

In the event of a fire in areas without water, eight tanker trucks that can hold as much as 3,000 gallons each are on standby, officials said.

The water threat surfaced as hot, humid weather sent temperatures to an uncomfortable level, prompting officials to warn of heat-related illnesses.

An area from Boston to Nashville, as well as parts of the Midwest, braced for sweltering stickiness Wednesday as temperatures pushed the heat index -- a measure of how hot it feels to one's body -- higher than 100-degree F, CNN reported.

The heat was expected to bump ozone levels to code orange in Washington, presenting a danger to children, the elderly and those with cardiac or respiratory conditions, officials said.

Efforts to seek relief from the sauna-like conditions pushed utility Con Edison close to setting a record for electricity usage in New York Tuesday, utility officials said. Con Edison's record is 13,189 megawatts, set July 22, 2011.

Discount airline JetBlue sold out of its "hot seat" promotion, offered whenever the temperature in New York tops 90 degrees, CNN reported. The special runs through Saturday.

No deaths have yet been reported.

The New York Fire Department responded to 37 heat-related incidents Monday and 25 as of late Tuesday, CNN said.

The Red Cross and the New York mayor's office warned people to stay in cool places and drink lots of water. The city opened cooling centers for those without access to air conditioning.

The oppressive weather conditions are expected to last through at least Friday, weather officials said. Rain is expected in the Northeast for the weekend.

"The extreme part of the heat is not forecast to ease until over the coming weekend, when thunderstorms may return to many areas," said Paul Pastelok of AccuWeather.com.

The return of thunderstorms brings with it the risk of severe weather and downpours, AccuWeather.com said.

"It appears the pattern of frequent showers and thunderstorms will return to the East Coast and Appalachians late in July and much of August," Pastelok said.

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