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Nation

Heat Wave Along East Coast Claims One Life

Jul 6, 2010 – 3:45 PM
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Lauren Frayer

Lauren Frayer Contributor

(July 6) -- A heat wave along America's East Coast has left one person dead and sent temperatures soaring into the triple digits, creating dangerous conditions from North Carolina to Boston.

A 92-year-old Philadelphia woman has died because of excessive heat exposure, a medical examiner told CNN today. She did not have an air conditioner. Temperatures in that city are expected to rise to 101 degrees today.

In New York City, where the official temperature reached 100 degrees this afternoon, over 2,200 residents in Staten Island have lost power, according to Con Edison. An outage in the Bronx earlier today left about 1,200 residents without electricity as well, but only lasted for an hour. And in Virginia, it's so hot that some train lines are worried about steel railroad tracks expanding and causing delays, The Washington Post reported. According to the National Weather Service, the brutal temperatures will last through mid-week.

The intense heat is also prompting cities to open cooling shelters and offices to crank up their air conditioners -- and sparking fears of more blackouts amid increased electricity demand.

In New York, Con Edison expects record electricity usage thanks to the oppressive heat. A spokesman told AOL News today that the company has extra crews working overtime, and has set up a temporary command center to monitor reports of outages.

"We've had them on all night," Con Edison spokesman Chris Olert said today in a phone interview. "Everybody is working 12-hour shifts."

In a harbinger of what could be to come, electricity went out across much of Toronto on Monday, but the cause was traced to a fire at a transformer station rather than too much volume on the power grid. Still, the outage conjured memories of the devastating summertime blackout in 2003, when much of the Eastern U.S. and Canada were plunged into darkness because of an overloaded grid.

The Toronto outage also hit the Fairmont Royal York Hotel, where Britain's queen was due to have dinner, Reuters reported. Power was restored around 6 p.m., after more than an hour of disruptions to subways, electric buses and streetcars. At one point, motorists got out of their cars to direct traffic under darkened traffic lights.
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With the masses returning to work after the long Fourth of July weekend, the fear is that increased energy demand -- with office air conditioners rumbling at full-blast because of the heat wave -- could push utilities usage beyond the breaking point.

Olert said Con Edison expects customers to use a record amount of electricity today. The previous record was set on August 2, 2006, at 5 p.m.

"We're urging customers to conserve," Olert said. "We are expecting a record usage but we're not encouraging it."

About 17,000 customers in northern New Jersey lost power for more than four hours Monday, but authorities said they're still investigating the outage's cause and it's not clear whether it was related to the heat.

An excessive heat advisory is in effect today for New York and much of the mid-Atlantic area, where high humidity is expected to combine with hot temperatures to "make it feel like it is 100 to 104 degrees for two consecutive hours" or more, the National Weather Service said. It is cautioning residents to drink plenty of fluids, stay in air-conditioned rooms and out of the sun, and check in on relatives and neighbors, particularly the elderly.

In New York, 100 cooling centers opened Monday and more than 500 air-conditioned public spaces like libraries and community centers will be available today, said Chris Gilbride, with the New York City Office of Emergency Management.

"It's hot, and it's going to remain hot," Gilbride told USA Today. People should conserve energy to avoid overtaxing energy grid systems, he said.

Some electrical appliances hog more energy than others. According to Con Edison, air conditioners, dishwashers, and flat screen TVs are some of the worst offenders. "Maybe wait to do your laundry," Olert suggested.

Summer school classes in the Philadelphia area are being called off today to ease energy demand, and children across the country are plunging into pools and lakes. "It's less hot because you're in the cold water," 6-year-old Addison Crawford, swimming in Ohio's Maumee Bay, told the The Blade of Toledo.

High temperatures over the Independence Day weekend have been blamed for at least one death, that of a homeless woman in suburban Detroit on Sunday. The medical examiner's office told the Detroit Free Press the 56-year-old woman died of hyperthermia, or an abnormally high body temperature.

Another victim of the heat Monday was Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Tim Murray, who was hospitalized after marching in five parades over the holiday weekend. His spokesman told news agencies he spent last night in the hospital but is in good spirits.

Meanwhile, the owner of an ice company in Virginia said the heat wave means good business for him.

"It's been a fabulous season for heat," City Ice Co.'s Mark Resnick told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. "This is the best year in three years."
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