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Hot Air Blisters East Coast

May 22, 1996

A heat wave pushed East Coast temperatures into the 90s for a third day Tuesday, leading utilities to impose power conservation and sending children home early from hot classrooms.

``But at least you don’t have to shovel the heat,″ said Charlene Adair, wheeling her twins in a stroller down Main Street in Springfield, Mass.

A week ago, her twins were still in snow suits, when a cold snap dusted the Appalachians with snow and nipped young vegetables in the bud.

Tuesday afternoon temperatures reached record highs of 96 at Newark, N.J.; 93 in New York City and 95 at Wilmington, Del. Farther south, Greenville and Spartanburg, S.C., registered a record 91.

However, a line of thunderstorms extending from Tennessee into northern New England marked the leading edge of cooler moving slowly into the region.

Power supplies were stretched thin as fans and air conditioners were cranked up.

The New York Power Pool told utilities around the state to conserve power, and Con Edison reduced available voltage in the New York City area by 8 percent.

``We finally cut power to about 115,000 people,″ said Con Ed spokesman Earl Wells. The power was cut at about 5:45 p.m. because of faults in two transformers at a substation and a severe overload of the system. It affected a wide section of the borough of Queens.

``It was directly related to the heat,″ said another Con Ed spokesman, Richard Mulieri. ``Hopefully we’ll have it back on by tomorrow. Usage was just too high and there was no way around it.″

A consortium of utilities serving parts of Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey reduced power by 5 percent.

``It’s all weather-related and there are some major units off line (for maintenance or repairs),″ said Rick Hofmann, spokesman for Delmarva Power & Light Co. of Wilmington, Del.

And some people didn’t have working air conditioners to turn on.

``We took over 250 calls yesterday and we’re working on that (number) today,″ said Madelene Sweeny, a dispatcher for Garden State Air Conditioning in Freehold, N.J. ``We’re two weeks behind if you’re looking for service.″

Schools sent children home early to get them out of classrooms that lacked air conditioning.

At White Sulphur Springs Elementary in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., the principal’s office is one of the few rooms with air-conditioning.

``But we do not turn that on until after 3 o’clock,″ said secretary Debbie Fogus. ``We don’t think it’s fair to everyone else.″

The heat prompted the Capital Area Agency on Aging in Richmond, Va., to get an early start on its summer program providing fans to low-income seniors.

Even ice makers looked for relief as they tried to keep up with demand.

``I probably change shirts three or four times a day,″ said Fred Schuld, owner of the Ice Factory in Landing, N.J. ``Once in awhile you walk into the freezer and get a blast of cool air. That’s about it. You sweat from morning to night.″

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