District opens shelters early amid record-breaking October heat
Blistering heat shattered records in Washington and much of the eastern United States on Wednesday at the start of a month whose falling leaves and cooler temperatures normally start preparing people for fall or winter.
As temperatures climbed above 95 degrees — on the way to breaking an October record that had stood for nearly 80 years — the District’s city government opened homeless shelters earlier than usual and took other steps to alleviate the heat’s impact. Baltimore County, also baking, closed schools without air conditioning.
The heat raised temperatures on social media, too.
“I am irrationally angry at the weather,” tweeted @Jerdlngr. “I just want to take hot showers and sleep with a quilt and wear handknits and be allowed to use the oven again.”
“I went for a run during this time and it was terrible,” added @dmontenegrox3. “I cannot believe how hot it is for this time of year.”
Wednesday marked the 62nd day at or above 90 degrees this year in Washington and was also a sign of what is likely to come if the planet warms further. Temperatures also hit 94 degrees in Newark, which was 24 degrees higher than normal, while New York’s Central Park recorded 92 degrees — the first mark above 90 degrees or higher in October since 1941.
Amid the hottest weather ever recorded so late in the year, D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) activated the city’s heat emergency plan, urging vulnerable residents to take advantage of air-conditioned public buildings such as libraries, recreation centers and senior centers during regular business hours. Additional services and extended hours were made available for the homeless.
Melvyn Smith, homeless services outreach coordinator in the city’s Department of Human Services, said six shelters that are usually available only for overnight occupancy were opened soon after the emergency plan was activated at about 1 p.m.
“There wasn’t a heavy demand today, but we did have some folks coming in,” Smith said.
The city issued heat advisories and activated its plan as the mercury climbed to 98 degrees, exceeding the hottest October temperature on record. The previous record of 96 degrees was set on Oct. 5, 1941.
Baltimore also hit records for the month, surpassing a 97-degree October mark that had stood since 1941, causing the county to close public schools without air conditioning, the Baltimore Sun reported.
A cold front pushing into the region is set to cool temperatures by Thursday, with highs mainly in the 70s; southern areas could see highs in the 80s.
The Washington region’s intense heat follows the third-hottest September on record and the seventh-hottest summer on record, according to the Capital Weather Gang.
The team of meteorologists said that since 2010, the District has recorded the three warmest years on the books, the warmest two springs, the hottest four summers and the warmest fall.
Normally, high temperatures this time of year are in the 70s, but a huge heat dome locked down over the eastern third of the nation scorched the region.
Dora Taylor-Lowe, a spokeswoman for the city’s Department of Human Services, said there have been 26 heat alerts this year, compared with 17 last year.
But it’s not just Washington and the eastern half of the United States that are feeling the heat.
Average temperatures in 2019 have been warmer than usual across the planet. The northern hemisphere just posted its hottest summer on record, and the Earth, overall, is projected to have one of its warmest five years on record.
Matthew Cappucci and Andrew Freedman contributed to this report.