Heat Wave Hits Capitol Complex

Posted July 22, 2011 at 2:24pm

A crushing heat wave in Washington, D.C., is being felt on the Capitol campus, as police and physicians have responded to several heat-related calls and the Capitol Power Plant is working in overdrive to keep the facilities cool.

The heat index reportedly measured 119 degrees in the District by 2 p.m. Friday. A Capitol Police officer said the pavement around the complex was reading at higher than 130 degrees.

As a result, the Capitol Police, who provide immediate care such as shade or water, have been called to assist several people falling ill from the temperatures, a department spokeswoman said.

“Today alone we’ve had at least four calls for [the Office of Attending Physician and] D.C. Fire to respond, according to our logs, and all of those were heat related,” Sgt. Kimberly Schneider said Friday.

D.C. Fire and OAP spokesmen were not immediately available for comment.

On Thursday between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., higher-than-normal temperatures were recorded in the chilled water supply at the Capitol Power Plant, which cools 23 buildings around the complex.

“The chilled water supply temperature did increase a few degrees due to the extreme heat,” Architect of the Capitol spokeswoman Eva Malecki said in an email. “Building occupants may have experienced slight temperature increases in their offices for a short time, but there were never any outages.”

The plant turned on an extra chiller to bring the temperatures back to normal, shifting from the usual four chillers to using five chillers, said a staffer familiar with the issue.

The staffer said temperatures in the Rotunda were higher than normal Friday due to the size of the room, though the rest of the complex was experiencing normal temperatures. Malecki said the power plant is now running under normal conditions.

Similar weather conditions are expected to continue into next week.

Staffers are advised to close their window blinds and keep doors closed to keep the cool air inside their offices, Malecki said.

The Capitol Power Plant generated an average of 20,000 tons of chilled water per hour during the summer from 2007 to 2009, according to the Congressional Research Service. During peak summer months, the output could be as much as 28,000 tons.