- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 7, 2010

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Heat and humidity draped the Northeast for yet another day Wednesday, pushing electric utilities to crank up power and keeping the mercury hovering around 100 from Virginia to New Hampshire.

The crux of the deadly heat was situated over the Philadelphia area, where an excessive heat warning was put into effect until 8 p.m. The National Weather Service said high humidity levels could make it feel as hot as Tuesday, when temperatures topped 100.

Sue Robels, 22, was getting out of the heat at Philadelphia’s Franklin Institute science museum for an exhibit on Cleopatra.

“My apartment isn’t air conditioned, so it’s going to be museums, movies, Starbucks, anywhere else but at home today,” she said.

It was already 71 degrees, hazy and humid before 7 a.m. Wednesday at a golf course in suburban Albany, N.Y., where gardener Sarah Breglia was bracing for another sweltering work day. She said her strategy was to drink lots of fluids and rely on water stations scattered around the Guilderland golf course.

“I try to stay in the shade in the afternoon,” she said. “We do all the areas in the sun, all the sweeping, cleaning up, as early as possible. In the afternoon, we try to keep it cool.”

Scattered power outages have affected customers up and down the coast and usage approached record levels. In the Washington, D.C., area, nearly 1,000 customers were without power Wednesday, while New Jersey’s largest utility, Public Service Electric & Gas, reported about 6,500 customers without electricity. Consolidated Edison in New York said it was working to restore power to about 6,300 customers, down from outages to 18,700 customers Tuesday.

The heat also hampered train travel and forced nursing homes with power problems to evacuate. On New York’s Long Island, the Red Cross said local merchants would help to distribute free bottled water to day laborers.

Tatiana Solis, 17, was getting ready to deliver newspapers Wednesday in New York City, where forecasters predicted a high of up to 99 degrees.

“I have asthma and when it’s hot, it’s too exhausting,” she said. “I can’t breathe.”

Transportation officials cut the speed of commuter trains in suburban Washington, D.C., and New York when the tracks got too hot. Extreme heat can cause welded rails to bend under pressure. Some train service to New Jersey was canceled.

Rail riders in New Jersey and Maryland were advised to expect delays again Wednesday. Philadelphia’s transit system said it was slowing trains to reduce the amount of electricity needed to run them.

In Park Ridge, N.J., police evacuated a nursing home and rehabilitation center after an electrical line burned out Tuesday evening. Patients from the nursing home and rehabilitation center were taken to hospitals and other nursing homes until power was restored Wednesday morning.

In Baltimore, a resident of the 190-bed Ravenwood Nursing and Rehabilitation Center called 911 on Tuesday to complain of stifling temperatures, and paramedics discovered the air conditioning hadn’t worked since Friday. Some residents gathered in an air-conditioned multipurpose room, but paramedics moved 40 of them elsewhere.

Residents of two Rhode Island beach towns, Narragansett and South Kingstown, were hit with an added layer of inconvenience: They were banned from using water outdoors and were asked to boil and cool their water before using it. The high temperatures combined with the busy holiday weekend for tourists created higher-than-expected demand, causing water pressure to drop and increasing the chance of contamination.

In Boston, the sweltering temperatures pushed a window-washing company to adjust its hours.

Victor Cruz, 24, usually starts his day with Cliffhangers Inc. at 6:45 a.m. But on Wednesday, he was washing ground floor doors and windows at Boston’s Intercontinental Hotel starting at 4 a.m., so his day would end at noon, instead of 3:30 p.m.

“It’s just exhausting,” Mr. Cruz said, pining for the days he used to work in a bank. “I actually took Tuesday off because it was just too hot. When it’s like this we’ll sit in the van every so often with the air conditioner on for a few minutes just to cool down.”

Deaths blamed on the heat included a 92-year-old Philadelphia woman whose body was found Monday and a homeless woman found lying next to a car Sunday in suburban Detroit.

Tuesday’s hot weather broke records for the day in New York, where it hit 103, and in Philadelphia, where it reached 102.

Those cities and other dense, built-up areas are getting hit with the heat in a way their counterparts in suburbs and rural areas aren’t. Cities absorb more solar energy during the day and are slower to release it at night.

With people cranking up the air conditioning Tuesday, energy officials said there was tremendous demand for electricity, but the grid didn’t buckle. Usage appeared to be falling just short of records set throughout the Northeast during a 2006 heat wave.

Meteorologists in some places began calling the current hot stretch a heat wave, defined in the Northeast as three consecutive days of temperatures of 90 or above. New Jersey’s largest city, Newark, handily beat that threshold, hitting 100 for the third day in a row. Temperatures throughout the Mid-Atlantic region were expected to be in the high 90s to 100 again Wednesday.

Associated Press Writers Mark Pratt in Boston, Eva Dou in New York and Michael Hill in Albany, N.Y., contributed to this report.

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