On the home page of the NY Times website, a one sentence summary of their article about the heat wave reads: "The Northeast faced a fourth day Wednesday of a record-breaking heat wave, straining power supplies and testing New Yorkers’ resilience." When we read that last bit, our first thought was, Why does the Times think New Yorkers are such crybabies? But while most of us can bitch and bear it, it's an unfortunate fact that this heat wave is claiming lives: A 46-year-old Queens woman died yesterday from heat-related causes; CBS2 reports that her body temperature in the ER was 108 degrees.
The heat advisory remains in effect today, with an added twist: Because the high pressure system causing the heat wave is keeping air from circulating, the air is saturated with pollutants, and there is an "air quality alert" in effect until 10 p.m. Pollution levels are elevated, and the state health department recommends that "individuals consider limiting strenuous outdoor physical activity to reduce the risk of adverse health effects." (There's a toll free number you can use to update yourself regularly on the air quality: 1-800-535-1345.) High temperatures today are expected to reach the mid to upper 90s, with heat index values of 100 to 104 degrees. At 4 a.m., it was 86 degrees in Central Park; the normal high temperature for this date is 84.
Yesterday hospitals citywide reported an influx of patients with heat exhaustion (the symptoms include dizziness and feeling light-headed). An EMT tells CBS2, "In severe cases, A person's body completely shuts down. They become comatose. They stop sweating. They are bone dry." At Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, 17 firefighters were treated for heat exhaustion after fighting a three-alarm blaze at a house in nearby Astoria yesterday morning.
According to the Times, New Yorkers' electricity demand "hovered at the threshold of uncharted territory"—the 2006 record of 13,141 megawatts—but did not surpass the previous record. That may be because Con Edison reduced voltage in parts of Brooklyn and Queens by five to eight percent, and encouraged commercial building owners and residents to reduce consumption by turning thermostats up to 78 and turning off all non-essential appliances.
Still, more than 4,000 customers lost power in the Fox Hills neighborhood of Staten Island, where a main feeder cable failed. NY1 reports that 1,905 customers lost power in in Queens; 1,116 in the Bronx; 798 in Brooklyn; and 42 in Manhattan, where the very important people live. Today Con Ed is reducing voltage by 8 percent to over 50,000 customers in Vinegar Hill, Fort Greene, Brooklyn Heights, Downtown Brooklyn, Red Hook, Carroll Gardens, Boerum Hill and Cobble Hill. According to reports over the wires, there are currently power outages in St. Albans, Queens, and outages in Gravesend and Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn.
Yesterday city pools quickly filled to capacity, and city beaches were also packed. On Coney Island, parks employees estimated the crowd to be around 205,000, which was triple the number of beachgoers on this date last year. Cooling centers and libraries became sanctuaries for thousands without A.C., and at the back of the Harlem branch of the NYPL, the Times found Frankie Santiago, 15, clutching his iPod and sharing his headphones with Carmen Rivera, 14. "We were going to go to the pool," said Frankie. "But it was closed, so we thought it was better to wait here than in the heat." And thank heavens they had their iPod or they would have been bored to tears in that place!