Heat Advisory In Effect For NYC Until 6 p.m. Wednesday

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Power outages have become a major concern this week, as Tuesday marks the first in a series of hot days.

A heat advisory is in effect until 6 p.m. Wednesday for New York City. An air quality alert is also in effect until 11 p.m. Tuesday for New York City, and for Westchester, Rockland, Nassau and Suffolk counties.

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As early as mid-morning Tuesday, temperatures were already in the mid and upper 80s and feeling hotter with the humidity. By the late afternoon, the temperature at Central Park measured 92 degrees.

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Residents of one block on the Lower East Side lost power during the hottest part of the day, shortly after noon.

“The air conditioner, fan — nothing’s working,” said resident Babu Chowdury.

Two manhole fires led to power outages on Norfolk Street between Delancey and Rivington streets.

“The lights slowly went out,” said Mark Powell, who works in the area. “Suddenly, there’s, like, yellow smoke that’s pouring out of the manhole cover.”

“I was just working from home today and the laptop died straightaway,” said resident Emma Staples. “No power — very annoying.”

But it’s not just annoying — it’s also bad for business. Alex Valencia owns a new restaurant on the block, and no power meant no customers and no place to refrigerate his food.

“Now I need to call all my reservations that I have already and tell them that we’re going to close,” Valencia said. “I tried to figure out with some colleagues from other restaurants. I just called them to see if they can keep some of the meat and fish.”

Con Edison confirmed that 13 buildings lost power – a total of roughly 200 customers. Spokesman Michael Clendenin said the utility tracks such problems in its control rooms – located in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Staten Island and Westchester.

“What we do from here is dispatch crews and get them there to make their repairs as quick as possible,” Clendenin said. “Our goal during heat waves like this is to try to keep the outages small in number, short in duration, and get people back in service as quickly as we can.”

But residents were told it would be a while.

“I heard somebody say until 8 o’clock tonight, hopefully,” said resident Karen Lam.

Some residents were not sure that would be soon enough. And this outage had them worried about the rest of the week, since forecast is calling for six days where temps will be 90 degrees or higher.

“We’re relying on our air conditioning units, so we’re probably going to end up having to go to a hotel,” said resident Brian Clark.

A Con Ed representative said it was not clear what caused the manhole fires, but the situation is under review.

Meanwhile, even without any emergencies such as the one that caused the Lower East Side failure, the power grid still faces a test during extreme heat.

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As the mercury rises, so does electricity usage, which peaks between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., said Phil Van Horne, chief executive officer of the energy solutions firm BlueRock Energy.

“Because what seems to happen is as the heat wave continues, people get less and less power, they crank the air conditioning down, usage goes up, prices go up, equipment starts to fail, so you see those prices rise,” he told WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond.

Natural gas capacity in the city, he says, is also limited.

Clendenin said that repairs made after last week’s equipment failure that knocked out power to thousands on Staten Island makes the entire system stronger, but during a heat wave, outages are hard to avoid.

“We serve 3.2 million metered customers, it represents 9 million New Yorkers throughout New York City and Westchester every day,” he said. “We will get pockets, unfortunately, of people who lose power during the heat and our crews are out there working in that heat to try to get the power back on as quick as they can.”

To conserve energy through the heat, Van Horne recommends keeping the thermostat at 83 degrees when you’re out and 78 degrees when you’re home.

Some other energy-saving and pollution-reducing steps include:

Use mass transit or carpool instead of driving.
Conserve fuel and reduce exhaust emissions by combining necessary motor vehicle trips.
Turn off all lights and electrical appliances in unoccupied areas.
Use fans to circulate air.
Close the blinds and shades to limit heat build-up and to preserve cooled air.
Limit use of household appliances. If necessary, run the appliances at off-peak (after 7 p.m.) hours. These would include dishwashers, dryers, pool pumps and water heaters.
Set refrigerators and freezers at more efficient temperatures.
Purchase and install energy-efficient lighting and appliances with the Energy Star label.
Reduce or eliminate outdoor burning and attempt to minimize indoor smoking.

PSE&G in New Jersey reminded customers to never use a portable generator inside or in close proximity to their homes (or any enclosed space) in the event they lose power.

Meanwhile, Mayor Bill de Blasio is urging residents to be careful in the hot and humid weather.

“The severe heat our city will experience in the coming days is extremely dangerous,” he said in a statement. “We are reminding all New Yorkers to make smart decisions by staying cool, hydrated, and out of the sun until this heat wave passes.”

The elderly and those with health problems are at the highest risk.

Officials said people should drink plenty of water, stay in air-conditioned places, wear light clothing and avoid strenuous activity outside when temperatures are at their highest.

People who exercise or work outdoors are urged to limit physical activity. Symptoms to watch out for can include shortness of breath, chest pain or coughing.

If you don’t have access to air conditioning, cooling centers are open across the five boroughs. To find a cooling center near you, call 311 or click here.

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PSE&G customers in New Jersey who lose power are urged to call the customer service line at 800-436-PSEG.