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Heat Continues To Put Pressure On Power Grid; Outages Remain In Bronx, N.J.

Utilities To Restore Service Soon; High Of 108 Recorded In Lakehurst

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – The stifling conditions from the week-long heat wave were testing the patience of the power grid on Friday night.

The excessive heat warning for parts of New Jersey, Connecticut, the lower Hudson Valley, Long Island and New York City expired at 8 p.m., but a heat advisory was issued for parts of the Garden State until 8 p.m. Saturday.

EXTRAS: Forecast & Alerts | Staying Safe In The Heat | Find A Cooling Center | Find A Pool Near You | NYC Beach Guide

The high hit 96 in Central Park on Friday, but that’s nothing compared to the 108 — with 122 heat index — measured in Lakehurst, N.J.

An air quality alert was to continue until midnight.

POWER PROBLEMS

Strain on the power grid has been causing scattered outages across the area, but in New Jersey and the Bronx it appears Mother Nature had the upper hand.

Earlier in the evening roughly 10,500 PSE&G customers were still without service state-wide, with a huge chunk, approximately 8,200, in the dark in Bergen County. By 11 p.m. that number in Bergen had dropped to as little as 2,500, while the rest of the state had around 1,700, officials said.

Bergenfield, N.J. residents struggled through a day without power. As night fell many were only able to light their homes with candles and had retreated to their cars to stay cool and charge their cellphones, CBS 2′s Hazel Sanchez reported.

PSE&G estimated that all of their customers would have power restored by midnight.

Con Edison confirmed a new record for usage of 13,322 megawatts at 5 p.m. Before Friday, the all-time peak record was 13,189 megawatts set on July 22, 2011. That mark was first broken at 2 p.m. Friday, and usage grew through the afternoon.

The utility said it had more than 10,000 outages, mostly in the Bronx, but by 11 p.m. that number was below 3,000, with most coming in the Baychester and Edenwald sections.

Jersey City Power And Light reported that 505 customers were without power, and Connecticut Light And Power had 234 customers experiencing outages. In Orange and Rockland counties only 176 customers were affected.

Less than 300 Long Island Power Authority customers were without power as of 11 p.m.

All area utilities have asked customers to conserve energy where possible, like setting your thermostat above 78 degrees and turning up the temperature on big energy items like the refrigerator.

Con Edison said pop-up outages are to be expected, WCBS 880′s Jim Smith reported.

“The wires, literally, at times, can bake. With overhead wires you’ve got the natural cooling, as much as there is in this weather, the natural cooling of the air. With the underground you’ve got equipment that has been basically baking for several days,” Con Edison’s Chris Olert told WCBS 880′s Rich Lamb. “But we have very tough equipment.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo asked New Yorkers to cut electric use as much as possible to help prevent outages and brownouts.

“During this heat wave, it is understandable that many New Yorkers are staying cool indoors and turning up the air conditioning,” Cuomo said in a statement. “However, this has led to near record demand for electricity so I urge New Yorkers to proactively conserve electricity use when possible to ease the pressure on the power grid and prevent outages.”

Business owners remained nervous that a power outage could cost them serious cash.

“Very worried, I have a lot of product in there, my refrigerators,” florist Chris Demetri told CBS 2′s Tony Aiello.

A blackout in 2006 cost Demetri thousands of dollars, and businesses around the city lost millions when feeder cables fried and cut power for several days. Residents said they were hopeful there won’t be repeat in 2013.

“Maybe they’ve learned from their past mistakes, they need to keep us happy,” Jamie Jipson said.

Con Ed told CBS 2 that it had, indeed, learned its lesson. The utility said it upgraded its equipment by $1 billion a year since the 2006 blackout.

“We’re more targeted with our investments. It’s not a shotgun approach. We’re really putting the money where it is most effective and that really is paying dividends for us,” Con Ed’s Sr. Vice President of Operations John Miksad said.

The utility said it has also worked to decrease demand by paying big power users to cut back on peak usage days.

Even with the pricey upgrades it was still a week spent on edge for Con Ed.

“We’ve had a couple folks drop dead from heat exhaustion. They are really working their butts off,” Miksad told CBS 2′s Christine Sloan, “When it’s 100 degrees above ground, a lot of them work below ground where it’s 120 degrees, 125 degrees.”

OUTREACH TO ELDERLY, HOMELESS INCREASED

Teams with New York City’s Department of Homeless Services are persuading homeless people to come off the street and into specialty housing, a shelter or a drop-in center during the heat wave.

Spokeswoman Heather Janik said they’re also handing out bottled water and information about cooling centers and the dangers of heat ailments.

If you see a homeless person who appears to need assistance, call 311 or use the city’s new app to summon an outreach team.

Janik says “people who stop to make a difference” can save a life.

The staff and volunteers of Citymeals-on-Wheels are also bringing extra water to frail, elderly residents.

Executive Director Beth Shapiro says meal deliverers are encouraging clients to turn on fans and air conditioners, if they have them.

Shapiro says that may sound like a no-brainer. But many Citymeals-on-Wheels clients live at or below the poverty level, and worry about electric bills.

In addition, the frail elderly may not feel physical symptoms that tell them it’s getting dangerously hot.

STAYING SAFE IN THE HEAT

Health experts say the best ways to stay cool is to stay hydrated, but not with just anything. Doctors recommend bottled water with added electrolytes.

Officials say you can also keep cool by wearing lightweight, loose-fitting clothing and try to avoid strenuous activity during the
hottest times of the day. If you must go outside, wear sunscreen and a hat to protect your face and head.

Be sure to check on your neighbors, especially if they are elderly, have young children or have special needs.

But sunburn, heat exhaustion, and dehydration aren’t the only threats in a heat wave. On Friday CBS 2′s Steve Langford hit the streets to check the temperature of common surfaces around the city.

Park benches were topping out above 130-degrees, a newspaper rack was over 120-degrees.

For anybody working inside of a food truck or a kitchen conditions were downright miserable, especially when climate control efforts failed, or didn’t exist to begin with.

“That’s the fan I use, but the battery died,” Pericles Kourtis said while working inside of his unbearably hot food truck.

It’s also important to keep your pets cool.

The Nassau County SPCA says pets should be kept indoors during times of excessive heat. Leaving a pet outside in very hot weather for prolonged periods of time can be life-threatening.

When outside, pets should have proper protection from the sun and plenty of fresh, cool water to drink. Experts also recommend limiting your dog’s exercise.

Signs of distress include heavy panting, difficulty breathing, bright red tongue, vomiting or unsteadiness. If that happens, get the dog into a cool place and call the veterinarian.

Never leave children or pets in a parked car. Temperatures can rise to dangerous levels in a matter of minutes.

For some New Yorkers hydration and air-conditioning were only part of the fight to defeat the heat.

Parents were hitting the stores in search of “cold baby-seat liners” and portable, battery powered, clip on stroller fans.

Others were looking for ways to stay comfortable at night when sleeping conditions can become less than ideal.

A cold sheet fan blows cold air on sleepers all night long via remote control, CBS 2′s Jennifer McLogan reported.

On Saturday, a high of around 94 is predicted with a heat index as high as 101 degrees, but heavy rain is expected and that should cause gradual cooling starting on Sunday.

LOOKING COOL WHEN THE MERCURY RISES

As the heat wave raged on Friday some New Yorkers were more concerned with staying cool, then they were with looking cool, but Meatpacking District stylist Apri Brown told CBS2′s Dave Carlin that the heat is no excuse.

“Everyone needs to look good in New York,” she said.

Brown said she has seen too much sweaty skin, visible underwear, and wonders if New Yorkers have been getting dressed in the dark.

It wasn’t all bad, however. Brown gave Monique Thomas high marks for her long dress and bold hairstyle choice…she chose to cut it all off.

“It’s too damn hot for hair,” Thomas said.

Wacky fashion decisions appeared to carry the day as one man even decided to wear a towel on his head, underneath a baseball cap.

“I usually look in the mirror three times, today I said ‘I’m going to wear a white tee and wear a towel on my head,’” Ronald Elysee said.

The fashion police may need to get off the beat until the heat wave ends.

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(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)