The National Weather Service (NWS) extended its heat advisory for New York City through Sunday night, and the city’s electrical grid already showed signs of strain, in what’s projected to be the most protracted heat wave in nearly a decade.
Temperatures of 90 degrees and above began on Tuesday, and they aren’t expected to let up until next Monday, according to James Tomasini, a meteorologist at the NWS. The city hasn't seen consecutive heat for that many days in a row since 2013, when there was a 7-day long heatwave, according to National Weather Service records.
“You can expect hot and humid conditions,” he said, with the heat index pushing into the low 100s. He urged caution for those who have to work in the hot sun. “Take frequent breaks in shaded or air-conditioned environments.”
There were scattered heat-related power outages across New York City throughout the week, according to Con Edison. On Thursday morning, the utility company advised residents of central Queens that it had reduced voltage to the area to make repairs.
Con Edison asked around 84,000 households in the neighborhoods of Corona, Elmhurst, Fresh Meadows, Jamaica Estates, Oakland Gardens, Hollis Hills, Kew Gardens, Pomonok and Hillcrest to further reduce their electricity usage while the work was occurring.
In Astoria, another 600 households lost power, which was slated to be restored by Thursday afternoon, according to the utility company.
“Heat this intense is going to cause some outages, that’s inevitable,” said Allan Drury, a spokesperson for Con Edison. “Our job is to respond professionally and efficiently and get customers back into service.”
On any given summer day, the city might require a maximum of around 7,000 megawatts of electricity at once. But when temperatures soar and offices, stores and homes have the air conditioning blasting, demand for electricity nearly doubles, Drury said.
On Wednesday at the peak hour of 5 p.m. there were 11,510 megawatts of energy in use. Thursday’s usage was expected to be slightly higher at 11,600 megawatts, he said, though that’s still below the record-setting demand for electricity seen on July 19, 2013, when 13,322 megawatts were in use.
People working with air conditioners on at home rather than in centrally located business districts could add further stress to the system, Drury said. In 2019, tens of thousands of residents of southeastern Brooklyn lost power during a heat wave that occurred on a Sunday evening, when more people were at home rather than at their workplaces.
While this week’s heat wave will undoubtedly be sticky and long, New York City has seen hotter and longer. Temperatures in Central Park peaked at a record 106 degrees on July 9, 1936, and the longest heat wave in New York City history took place at the end of August 1953, lasting for 12 days.
Over the last several decades, the NWS has tracked more frequent and more consecutive days of extreme heat in New York City, attributed to the impacts of climate change.
Correction: An earlier version of this story included the wrong information on the last longest heat wave in New York City, citing a National Weather Service spokesperson. NWS records show there was a seven-day heat wave in 2013, which was likely the longest heat spell in the area.