Temperatures soared toward 100 degrees or more Tuesday along much of the East Coast, sending utilities into peak operation as air conditioners strained to cool the sweating masses and sending the unlucky into cooling centers — or anywhere else they could beat the heat.
After an extended Fourth of July weekend when temperatures inched into at least the 90s from Maine to Texas, The National Weather Service issued heat advisories until 11 p.m. Wednesday for much of the Northeast, mid-Atlantic and parts of Michigan and Kentucky. Wednesday was forecast to be the most humid day of the stretch.
The heat was expected to put a heavy load on the power grid. Utilities in New York and Philadelphia could break records for electricity use, spokesmen said. Utility workers in New York and Westchester County were working 12-hour shifts because of the increased demand.
In Philadelphia, the increased load from the heat blew fuses at transformers run by the Peco utility, said spokeswoman Karen Muldoon Geus. About 8,000 customers lost power, but it was restored Tuesday.
Those without air conditioning were left to cope as they could.
In the Bronx, Gardenia Childs, 72, walked to the store early and bought herself an extra fan, but swore off any more exercise for the day as she wheeled it home in a shopping cart.
"I don't think I'll be coming outside again," she said.
Nearby, construction worker Pat McHugh, 49, his face shiny with sweat, took a break to cool off with a cup of hot tea, of all things.
"It's brutal. And I'm on the shady side of the building," he said. Worst heat on the job in 10 years, he added.
At his Manhattan newsstand, a steel kiosk that soaks up sun like a sponge, vendor Sam Doctor said the only way to keep cool was to keep splashing his head with water, but he acknowledged that his system wouldn't last. Both of his soda-cooling refrigerators had already conked out by midmorning.
"When it's 100 degrees out there, it's 110 in here," he said, still smiling as he served customers.
Davey Adams, 45, was headed back to his job Tuesday morning as a forklift driver at a package company warehouse in Philadelphia that has no air conditioning, just fans.
He said he planned to use "cold water and a washcloth" draped over his head to keep cool.
In the East, warm air is "sitting over the top of us, and it's not really going to budge much for the next day or two," said Brian Korty, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Camp Springs, Md. After that, he said, a system coming in off the Atlantic Ocean would bring in cooler temperatures.
Korty stressed that the danger from increasing temperatures was likely to grow.
"As the temperature and humidity both get higher, the stress it can put on the human body increases," he said, "and therefore the higher the temperature and higher the humidity, the greater the chance of people having problems."
In downtown Philadelphia, temperatures were already approaching 90 degrees on Tuesday morning.
Robert McCarron, 44, was wearing a navy suit and tie as he walked four blocks from a downtown subway station to an office building where he was due for a job interview.
"If I was going to a job, you'd better believe I wouldn't be wearing a suit," he said. "This is rough, and it's only going to get hotter."
Walkers and drivers all seemed to be moving a little more slowly in the heat, which combined high humidity with clear sunny skies that made sidewalks hot and asphalt sticky.
"Why am I drinking hot coffee this morning? Because I'm crazy," paralegal Sharon Loven, 35, said with a laugh on her way to work after a long beach weekend that was still too brief for her liking.
"I should have stayed at the shore. That's the place to be when it's this hot."
Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Tim Murray was hospitalized Monday evening after marching in five parades in 90-degree heat over the weekend and feeling under the weather, his spokesman said. Murray stayed overnight at the hospital for observation but was in good spirits, spokesman Kyle Sullivan said.
The weekend heat also was blamed for at least two deaths.
The body of a 92-year-old woman in Philadelphia was discovered Monday by a neighbor who went to check on her, authorities said.
And temperatures that pushed into the mid-90s across much of Michigan claimed the life of a homeless woman found lying next to a car in a suburban Detroit parking lot Sunday afternoon. The Oakland County medical examiner's office told the Detroit Free Press the woman died of hyperthermia, an abnormally high body temperature.
In Indianapolis, which had a high of 90 degrees Sunday, police said they arrested a couple for endangering their 2-year-old daughter by taking her begging in the heat. The parents, who had $98 when arrested, were jailed Monday on child endangerment charges. The girl was treated for heat exposure.
Associated Press writers Eva Dou and Verena Dobnik in New York and Jeff McMillan and JoAnn Loviglio in Philadelphia contributed to this report.
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