Sweltering heat takes its toll on New Yorkers

POSTED: Sunday, June 24, 2012 - 7:00pm

UPDATED: Sunday, June 24, 2012 - 7:04pm

Temperatures reached 98 degrees at LaGuardia and Newark Airport Wednesday, breaking 1953 records at both airports. Kennedy Airport also broke a record, that one from 1995, with 94 degrees. Central Park saw 94 degrees, but did not break any records.

The scorcher continues Thursday, with an expected high of 97. Central Park had not hit 90 since last August.

Utilities asked customers to conserve power. Jersey City Heights and parts of Union City in New Jersey were hit with a widespread power outage Wednesday evening after a transformer exploded, but customers had their power back on in about an hour, according to a PSE&G spokeswoman.

Con Ed and the Long Island Power Authority reported scattered outages. Con Ed has reduced voltage in some Queens and Brooklyn neighborhoods because of problems with electrical equipment. The company is asking customers not to use appliances such as washers, dryers and air conditions, and to turn off lights and televisions when not needed.

"We're trying to not have any lights on, use the air conditioner as we need it, close the blinds and try to stay cool," said Randi Prevete of Bayside, Queens.

PSE&G said it had extra utility crews on hand, and Con Ed said workers were on 12-hour shifts to monitor usage.

"The jump from yesterday to today is very significant and we do prepare the system for these kinds of days," said Michael Clendenin, Con Ed spokesman.

In North Bergen, N.J., where temperatures were in the 80s at mid-morning, two high school graduates were overcome by heat and taken to the hospital as a precaution, officials said.

Emergency management officials called on New Yorkers to stay in air-conditioned places if possible, stay hydrated and check on elderly neighbors.

New York City's 1.1 million public school students are still in session for another week, and just 64 percent of classrooms are air-conditioned.

Students were advised to wear light clothing and drink plenty of water, and schools have been told to limit outdoor playtime, city Education Department spokeswoman Margie Feinberg said.

Underground, temperatures were also unbearable. Subway riders said they dreaded the trek Wednesday.

"It's unbelievable -- it's like hell," said Danielle LeGree, of the Bronx. "Like you're walking downstairs to hell."

In Brooklyn, street vendor James Martin said his family's sixth-floor apartment in Coney Island has no air conditioning and can get really hot. But "we open the front door and all the windows, and we get a nice breeze," he said.

On Tuesday, though, he planned to buy a fan — "maybe two" — on his way home from work.

The New York City Office of Emergency Management said 455 cooling centers were open Wednesday and Thursday. Residents are asked to call 311 or visit www.nyc.gov for locations.

On Friday, the heat breaks slightly with a high of 90 and there's a chance of an afternoon thunderstorm. The tri-state will see the biggest break in the heat on Saturday, with a high of 85 degrees and a significant drop in humidity.

Sunday will be cloudy with late showers and storms and a high of 83. The return to the work week on Monday will be rainy, with a high of 74. 

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