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Record heat melts New York City

July 23, 2011 8:11:33 PM PDT
After a record 104 degree day in New York City on Friday, the mercury hit triple digits again on Saturday.

Central Park observed 100 degrees for a high temperature on Saturday.

The extreme summer heat has caused power problems around NYC. With so many people cranking up their air conditioners, the electric grid is really feeling the pressure.

Con Edison set a record for power demand at 3 p.m. Saturday, breaking the previous weekend-high mark set on July 24, 2010.

Crews are working to restore approximately 7,700 customers without power.

While Con Edison crews work to restore electrical power to those affected by scattered outages during the third day of the heat wave, the company is distributing dry ice to customers from two well-known locations near the most affected areas in Brooklyn and Queens.

Bags of ice are being distributed at: Sheepshead Bay High School, at 3000 Avenue X in Brooklyn and Richmond Hill High School, at 89-30 114th Street in Queens.

Customer Service vans will be staffed at these locations Sunday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

As part of its effort to avoid outages, Con Edison has reduced voltage to some customers in New York City and Westchester County due to problems on electrical equipment serving certain areas. Voltage has been reduced in the following neighborhoods:

In Staten Island: New Brighton, St. George, Tompkinsville, Brighton Heights, Ward Hill, Stapleton, Grymes Hill, Clifton, Silver Lake, Rosebank, Ft. Wadsworth, Grasmere, Concord, Arrochar, South Beach, Ocean Breeze, Midland Beach, Grant City, New Dorp, and Dongan Hills.

In Brooklyn and Queens: Sheepshead Bay, Marine Park, Gerritsen Beach, Midwood, Flatbush and East Flatbush, Williamsburg, Bedford Stuyvesant, Bushwick. Ocean Hill, Brownsville, Flatbush, and Prospect Heights, Corona, Elmhurst, Fresh Meadows, Jamaica Estates, Oakland Gardens, Hollis Hills, Hillcrest, Broad Channel, Howard Beach, Ozone Park, Richmond Hill, Woodhaven, Kew Gardens, and Kew Gardens Hills.

In Westchester County: parts of Yonkers, Dobbs Ferry, Hastings-on-Hudson and Greenburgh. Also Peekskill, Buchanan, Verplank, Croton-on-Hudson, Cortlandt, and parts of Ossining, Yorktown, and Briarcliff Manor. Also Mt. Vernon, parts of Bronxville, New Rochelle, North Pelham, Pelham, and Pelham Manor.

A portion of the northeast Bronx is also seeing reduced voltage.

The voltage reduction was done as a precaution to protect equipment and maintain service. Con Edison is asking customers in the area not to use appliances such as washers, dryers, and other energy-intensive equipment and to turn off lights and televisions when not needed until the equipment problems are resolved.

Customers can report power interruptions or service problems as well as view service restoration information online at www.conEd.com and on their cell phones and PDAs. Customers may also call Con Edison at 1-800-75-CONED (1-800-752-6633). When reporting an outage, customers should have their Con Edison account number available, if possible, and report whether their neighbors also have lost power.

Meanwhile, NYC cooling centers will be open again Sunday to offer relief from the heat. Call 311 to find out hours of operation and locations.

People looking to beat the heat were thwarted by warnings urging them to avoid some city waterways after a wastewater treatment plant disabled by fire began spewing millions of gallons of raw sewage into the Hudson River.

Even though the problem has been repaired, officials cautioned against swimming and bathing at four beaches in the city boroughs of Staten Island and Brooklyn, especially for people with medical conditions.

LINK: TIPS FOR PETS

The city's Office of Emergency Management is also working around the clock to monitor trouble spots.

"The longer it stays hot and the longer the system has to go without being able to cool off, the more risky it gets and the more stress builds up in the system," OEM's Corey McKinney said.

The extreme heat can also pose a health risk. Much of the area was expected to top 100 degrees, and with the humidity, it will feel like about 110. Doctors are advising people to avoid strenuous outdoor activities and drink lots of fluids.

"Keep an eye on the children who are out on the playground, and just make sure everyone seems like they're getting enough fluids, that they're not exhausted, not ready to pass out," said Dr. John Marshall, of the Maimonides Medical Center. "If you see something like that, say something."

Dangerous-heat advisories and air quality alerts were sent out for most of the Northeast on Saturday. Richard Ruvo, section chief in New York for the Environmental Protection Administration, said: "When there's more power demand, there's more power plants running, and there's more pollution. We're seeing ozone levels above unhealthy levels in the entire Northeast and Midwest, not just in the cities," he said. "On days like today, the air quality affects everyone, not just asthmatics and the elderly."

Con Ed is asking customers to set air conditioners at 78 degrees or higher, turn off lights in empty rooms and put off running appliances until after 10 p.m. Businesses are also asked to conserve during the day, keep front doors closed and turn off lights at night.

New York Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith said, "The danger isn't just the heat, it's also the heat underground. Much of our infrastructure is below ground."

"It's good in tornadoes, bad in heat," he said.

Richard Karty, who teaches urban ecology at the New School in New York City, said, "If one urban area is next to another urban area, like New York and Newark, it's just going to compound both the heat and the air pollution."

It also makes you feel like you are baking underground while waiting for a subway.

Some riders Eyewitness News spoke with suggested waiting for the gust of wind as a subway goes by, standing in the middle of the train where the air conditioners are, and if you must wait, stand by the entrances and exits where there is better air flow.

The FDNY reminds residents not to open fire hydrants.

"That hydrant open full blast can knock you or kids over, or significantly decrease water pressure which becomes a problem if we need to fight a fire in that neighborhood," said FDNY Commissioner Salvatore Cassano said.

The Fire Department showed Eyewitness News the correct way, using a sprinkler cap, which a firehouse will put on at an adult's request.

"We'll open it and then later on come back and close that hydrant for you," Cassano said.

Low-income New Yorkers with health issues aggravated by the heat can get help from the state.

New York State Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner Darryl Towns says a heat wave is a matter of life and death for people with serious underlying medical issues. The state has set aside $3 million through the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program to provide air conditioning units for more than 3,700 households.

To be eligible, a household must meet low-income guidelines, have at least one resident diagnosed with a medical condition aggravated by extreme heat, and have no working air conditioners.

Those who want to see if they qualify should visit www.mybenefits.ny.gov.

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HEAT-RELATED TIPS

Residents are advised to call their doctor or go to the emergency room right away if they feel sick and are urged keep a close eye on family, friends and neighbors, especially the elderly. Heat illness symptoms are often not specific and include:

  • Hot, dry skin or cold, clammy skin
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Shortness of breath or trouble breathing
  • Confusion, hallucinations, disorientation

    The risk for getting sick during a heat wave is increased for people who:

  • Are younger than five or older than 64
  • Have chronic medical or mental health conditions such as diabetes or substance abuse disorders.
  • Are overweight
  • Take certain medications which can disrupt the regulation of body temperature
  • Are unable to leave their homes or confined to their beds
  • Drink alcohol use drugs which can impair their judgment

    If you have a medical condition or take medication, check with your physician about precautions you should take during hot weather. Family, friends, and neighbors who are at high risk will need extra help during this period of extreme heat. Think about how you can help someone you know get to an air-conditioned place.

    Ready New York - Beat the Heat Tips:

  • Use an air conditioner if you have one.
  • If you do not have an air conditioner, go to a cooler place such as an air-conditioned family's, friend's or neighbor's home, store, mall, museum, or movie theater, or, visit a cooling center.
  • Use a fan if the air is not too hot. Fans work best at night to bring in cooler air from outside. Use a fan only when the air conditioner is on or the windows are open.
  • Drink plenty of water or other fluids, even if you don't feel thirsty. Avoid beverages containing alcohol, caffeine, or high amounts of sugar.
  • Never leave children, pets, or those who require special care in a parked car.
  • Avoid strenuous activity, or plan it for the coolest part of the day, usually in the morning between 4 a.m. and 7 a.m. or in the evening. If you exercise, drink two to four glasses of cool, nonalcoholic fluids each hour. A sports beverage can replace the salt and minerals you lose in sweat. If you are used to regular exercise, just keep in mind the symptoms of heat illness when exercising and stop or rest if any occur.
  • Be careful if you take a cold shower to stay cool - sudden temperature changes can make you feel dizzy or sick.
  • Check on your at-risk family, friends and neighbors often and help them get to a cool place.

    Spray Caps & Fire Hydrants:

  • Opening fire hydrants without spray caps is wasteful and dangerous. Illegally opened hydrants can lower water pressure, which can cause problems at hospitals and other medical facilities and hinder fire-fighting by reducing the flow of water to hoses and pumps. The powerful force of an open hydrant without a spray cap can also push children into oncoming traffic. Call 311 to report an open hydrant.
  • Hydrants can be opened legally if equipped with a City-approved spray cap. One illegally opened hydrant wastes up to 1,000 gallons of water per minute, while a hydrant with a spray cap only puts out around 25 gallons per minute. Spray caps can be obtained by someone 18 or over, free of charge at local firehouses.

    Conserve Energy:

  • During periods of extremely hot and humid weather, electricity use rises, which can cause power disruptions.
  • Set your air conditioner thermostat at 78 degrees.
  • Use air conditioners only when you're home, and only in rooms you're using. If you want to cool your home before you return, set a timer that turns on no more than 30 minutes before you arrive.
  • Turn off nonessential appliances.
  • To receive free notifications about power outages affecting your neighborhood sign up for Notify NYC at www.nyc.gov/notifynyc.

    For more information on coping with extreme heat, see the Ready New York: Beat the Heat guide at www.nyc.gov/oem. For more information on the health effects associated with extreme heat visit www.nyc.gov/health.

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