On a hot Wednesday in July the temperature has skyrocketed to a record-breaking 99 degrees by noon. Thick humidity lingers in the air, making any kind of outdoor activity ten times more unbearable. Cicadas are buzzing loudly from the trees, and there is no sign of a breeze starting up anytime soon.
Students at American University can be seen slowly sauntering across campus, nametags on and water in hand, feeling weighed down by never-ending heat. Campus gardeners constantly water the plant life to keep it from dying. The July heat wave, coming just five months after record snows, has been causing a lot of commotion for local residents as well as for students visiting or staying on campus.
From one extreme to the other, the D.C. area has had a year of record-breaking heat and snow. The 54.9 inches of the white stuff that fell in February brok the previous record of 54.4 inches in 1898-1899. But the current heat has also brought more bugs, A notable change in the sounds of the heat can be the constant song of the cicadas. As Bug Eric, an expert entomologist and insect blogger, explains, “It is fitting that these insects should appear at the hottest time of the year, for their shrill ‘songs’ seem to be the very sound of heat, reminiscent of something sizzling in the frying pan…” As the heat rises, the cicada’s call grows louder, a rising buzz that seems to symbolize summer heat.
Humans can wilt in the heat, too. Amber Onar, a student in the National Student Leadership Conference had only been at American University for a short amount of time when the extreme heat hit D.C. Onar said, , “I’ve just been staying in the air conditioning as much as possible and staying hydrated by drinking lots of water.” For many students like Onar, the air conditioning has been the only way to get relief.
Because the NSLC and many organizations in the area travel constantly, their members have learned the importance and vitality of staying hydrated and always having water around. Many local libraries and pools have been extending their hours to as late as 9 p.m. in order to allow residents some relief from the heat. There are also the “Cooling Centers”, or locally funded centers that provide relief and transportation to those who need it during a heat emergency.