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Heat Wave Cooks Eastern Part of U.S.

August 2, 2006

NEW YORK (AP) _ There was little relief for millions of Americans living in the eastern half of the country Wednesday, as the mercury was expected to reach 100 degrees in cities along the northeast coast.

The National Weather Service posted excessive heat warnings for communities from Maine to Illinois. Temperatures in Philadelphia were to top out at around 102 and a high of around 90 was forecast for Grand Rapids, Mich., where the normal high on Aug. 2 is 82 degrees.

In New York, Grace Hartmann summarized her misery in the starkest of terms.

``I am pretty much dying,″ the New York University student said Tuesday in Manhattan. ``I’m from California, where it’s not this hot and not humid.″

Electricity usage in the six-state New England region could top 28,000 megawatts Wednesday, breaking the one-day record of 27,395 megawatts set just two weeks ago, according to Erin O’Brien, a spokeswoman for ISO New England, which oversees the region. The demand Tuesday was just shy of the record, she said.

The hot weather brought its share of troubles Tuesday, putting animals in jeopardy, disabling cars and prompting New York to turn off lights atop the Empire State Building.

Residents on Chicago’s South Side were evacuated from buildings by the hundreds on Tuesday, one day after the power went out to 20,000 customers. Illinois officials blamed three deaths on the heat.

The blistering temperatures also scorched Conyers, Ga., where a A 15-year-old high school football player died, one day after collapsing at practice.

By mid-afternoon Tuesday, the temperature in Chicago was 100, Baltimore reached 99 and Washington hit 97, though the humidity made it feel like 107. Highs of 100 in Newark, N.J., and 97 in Atlantic City, N.J., tied records. In Manchester, N.H, it reached 95, tying the record for the date set in 1933.

Utilities _ in southeastern Pennsylvania, Baltimore, New York, New Jersey, the District of Columbia and two in Michigan _ said customer demand for power reached or exceeded all-time record highs.

With a disastrous 10-day power outage in one borough still fresh in memory, thermostats at city offices in New York City were set at 78, up from the usual 72. Lights were turned down on the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building, as were the lights illuminating the George Washington Bridge, the Brooklyn Bridge and other spans.

Ohio farmers used fans and cold showers to keep their cattle cool. Even with those efforts, the animals produced about 10 pounds less milk per day because of the heat, said farmer Clark Emmons of Fayette, Ohio.

At least 25,000 chickens at a northwest Indiana farm died when electricity was shut off so firefighters could fight a blaze at an adjacent building. The birds died from extreme heat caused by the lack of air conditioning.

The American Automobile Association’s Mid-Atlantic division handled 7,400 calls for assistance from Monday afternoon through Tuesday evening _ a 37 percent rise over normal summer call volume.

``That’s about comparable to what we get in a major snowstorm,″ said John B. Townsend, an AAA spokesman. Many were for overheated vehicles, hoses, belts breaking down and cracking and tires blowing out on the hot asphalt.

In Richmond, Va., sheriff’s deputies bought 200 pounds of ice to offer relief to jail inmates and used industrial exhaust fans to suck hot air out of cells. Prisoners were encouraged to take it easy, despite a requirement that they be provided daily recreation.

``It’s not a struggle; they don’t want to be bothered by running around on a concrete lot,″ sheriff’s department spokeswoman Tara Dunlop said.

In New Jersey, soaring temperatures were suspected in a huge fish kill at a Piscataway lake, and beachgoers were on the sand and in the water before most people had arrived at work.

In Maine, Aquaboggin Water Park in Saco was preparing for big crowds _ and the heat _ on Wednesday, bringing in cases of bottled water for customers and calling in extra staff.

``We’re gearing up for it,″ general manager Sally Christner said. ``Nobody else is excited about the heat, but we are. This is a great place to be when it’s hot.″

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