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July 8th, 2010
07:00 AM ET

Northeast heat wave strains power grid

(CNN) – A blistering heat wave continues to grip much of the Northeast. There may be some relief today from scorching temperatures, but not much. Days of record-breaking, triple-digit heat is putting a strain on the power grid and water supply. Utilities up-and-down the East Coast are pleading with the public to conserve. Our Jason Carroll visited Con Edison's emergency response center in New York City to see how the power company is handling the demand. Watch Video

An excessive heat watch will remain in effect through Thursday afternoon in parts of the Northeast.

The heat has claimed at least two lives - an elderly woman in Pennsylvania and a Maryland resident found inside a home with a temperature higher than 90 degrees.

For a second consecutive day Wednesday, temperatures approached or surpassed the 100-degree mark in many states.

And while temperatures may be lower on Thursday, the dew point temperatures will be higher Thursday, the National Weather Service said. That combination means heat indices will be close to 100 degrees again on Thursday.

As a result, an "excessive heat watch" will remain in effect through Thursday afternoon in parts of Delaware, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

A "heat advisory" remains in place for parts of Vermont as well. Heat index values are expected to hover between 100 and 104 degrees Thursday, so the advisory will not be lifted until Thursday evening.

But the weather service projects that a "heat advisory" in place for the New York metro area will lifted by mid-day Thursday. High temperatures are forecast to be about ten degrees cooler than they were Wednesday, as southeasterly winds come in off the Atlantic Ocean.

Weather stations in Richmond, Virginia; Raleigh, North Carolina; and Mount Holly, New Jersey; and at Philadelphia International Airport in Pennsylvania and Newark International Airport in New Jersey all registered triple-digit temperatures early Wednesday afternoon.

At Baltimore-Washington International Airport in Maryland, temperatures also hit 100 degrees Wednesday afternoon, 4 degrees shy of Tuesday's high. But CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said heightened humidity Wednesday made it feel similar to Tuesday - and he warned that the hottest time of day lay ahead later in the afternoon.

Water parks, pools and even fire hydrants became gathering places for people trying try to cool off as the record-breaking heat wave continued to roast much of the region.

iReport: Show us ways that you are staying cool

Officials are advising people to stay indoors as the prolonged heat and humidity creates a "dangerous situation."

The heat already has claimed at least two lives.

An elderly woman was found dead Monday night in a Philadelphia home without air conditioning, according to the city medical examiner's office. An adult was found dead inside a Baltimore home with a temperature higher than 90 degrees, the Maryland state health department said Wednesday.

Young, fit people have succumbed to the extreme temperatures, too.

Four midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, were being treated for signs of heat exhaustion Wednesday morning, according to academy spokeswoman Judy Campbell.

The extreme heat caused scattered power outages in some states. There were customers without power in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Jersey.

Con Edison says customers who lost power in the New York City area should have electricity restored by early Thursday morning.

Michael Clendenin of Con Edison told CNN's American Morning Wednesday that his company has been able to keep the power on for all but 6,000 or so of its 3.2 million customers in New York City.

"It is the kind of thing we expect in heat waves like this and we are working very hard to try to minimize the impact." Clendenin said.

He warned that the situation is far from over.

"So far, I would say we dodged major bullets. I think there's still a big shoot-out going on." Clendenin said.

Power isn't the only thing in sporadic supply in the heat-afflicted region.

According to the general manager of the White Oak Ice company in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, "The whole tri-state area is just about out of ice - New Jersey, Philadelphia and Delaware. Absolutely unbelievable. It's terrible up here. We haven't experienced this in 12 years, 13 years," said John Sylvester.

"All the big major companies are out of ice. Guys are scrambling. They're calling for ice and it's coming from Wisconsin, Ohio, the Carolinas and they're running out. Demand is way higher than what everyone can produce and I don't see any end in sight," Sylvester added.

In New York, the city set up as many as 400 cooling stations in its five boroughs, according to the Office of Emergency Management.

Emergency Management Commissioner Joe Bruno urged people to use the center, and advised neighbors to check on neighbors to make sure they are well.

Some of those neighbors might not have air conditioning to begin with.

New Yorker Alfred Roblero not only lacks air conditioning in his apartment, he has to walk up six flights of stairs to get there.

"It's terrible. Most of the time my heart is like beating like... like I need air because of the heat," Roblero told CNN's Jason Carroll.

CNN's Chad Myers, Mackenzie Green, Jessica Naziri, Jason Kessler, Mythili Rao, Cassie Spodak, and Ashley Vaughn contributed to this report.

Filed under: Weather
soundoff (One Response)
  1. ObamastanDan

    Methods have existed to shave down the peak usage on the power grid by doing some cooling operations with off-peak power. Stratified thermal storage tanks are in use in many areas for some very large users of power to cool, and they have been effective for sparing some power during the peak time of day as well as saving their owners a lot of money for something called demand shift. This was effective in situations where the user was on a time of use rate structure. The savings can occur where a flat rate is in effect as well. A reduction in peak-demand usage will show up as a change in their "demand charge or their "generation charge."
    Your big buildings like a Lowes, Home Depot, Walmart, Hotels, Hospitals and many cooling Processes should already be doing this through patents associated with 7,222,492 and 7,356,997. No one even knows how many additional power generation plants could be avoided by implementing this technique where it could be done. The only thing that is sure, is that implementing this is part of an energy economy.

    July 8, 2010 at 11:25 pm |