Eastern US cooks in summer heat, temps reach 100s

TOMS RIVER, N.J. - July 24, 2010 Heat sets new record in Philly

Philadelphians and visitors to the city, who weren't clustered in air conditioned homes or businesses Saturday, used a variety of ways to stay cool in the record heat - or just deal with it.

The mercury hit 97 degrees, a city record for July 24, breaking the old mark of 95 degrees in 1987, according to the National Weather Service.

Robert Baldwin, 46, of Chester was perched on the rim of the huge Swann Memorial Fountain in Logan Circle on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, watching daughter Paige, 10, splash in the water. The two were spending the day in the city, enjoying the sights and planning on a movie later.

"The park ranger came by and told us that we're not supposed to go in the water, but we are anyway," he said. "Wait till the people start coming out. It's going to be crowded, it is."

Baldwin said he had to think about not only the heat but the cold.

"We're going to get some lunch right now as soon as we dry off," Baldwin said. "When we go into the restaurant, it'll be freezing. I don't want her to get cold."

Sean Bennett, 14, of South Philadelphia said the heat was a problem not only for him but for the violin he was playing on a corner on popular South Street in hopes that some of the few passers-by would add to the pile of ones in the open case at his feet.

"The moisture expands the wood in my instrument so it keeps on going out of tune," he said. "It's hot for me and my instrument."

Bennett said he's been coming down to play on South Street for the past year on the weekends - during the week he has private lessons - and contributions have been pretty good.

"Mango and vanilla gelati - that's how I beat the heat," said Bob McSwiggan, 60, of South Philly, carrying his prize away from a South Street shop. He's struck by the staying power of the heat this summer as well as the cold during Philadelphia's winter of record snowfall.

"For this amount of time, it's the hottest that I can remember," he said. "Worst winter and worst summer that I can remember. I think they're doing something wrong. I don't know," he said, pointing skyward.

Louie Correa, 55, of Louie's Appliances was trundling a fan and a kitchen table into a South Philadelphia home. Earlier in the day, he said, he had been by the homes of some older residents to make sure they were all right.

"Sometimes they see me knocking on the door, and the neighbors say 'What you want there?' - like this morning, I said 'Oh, just making sure Miss Regina is all right,' 'Just making sure Frank is all right,"' he said.

Correa said his company was sold out of air conditioners and fans, but otherwise the series of heat waves has not been good for business.

"A lot of people don't want to come out, and I understand that, and I don't want them to come out," he said. "They call me for deliveries and, thank God, I'm healthy and I can do that."

Nish Desai, 26, said he usually tries to stay inside in air conditioning in heat like this. Instead, he was standing with his father in the sun in the middle of the street at the end of a long line at famed Geno's Steaks in South Philadelphia.

"My parents are down for the day today so I brought them down here. That's why we're braving the heat," Desai said.

So were the cheesesteaks at Geno's really worth it? "Yeah, absolutely," he said. Those standing in a similarly long line at nearby rival Pat's King of Steaks seemed to agree with the sentiment, if not the venue. NJ facing excessive heat, oppressive humidity

Excessive heat and oppressive humidity have created dangerous weather conditions in New Jersey.

The National Weather Service says the heat index could reach as high as 110 degrees in some areas of the Garden State on Saturday.

The hardest-hit locations will be cities and urban areas.

An excessive heat warning has been issued for Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Mercer, Passaic and Union counties, while the rest of the state is under a heat advisory. The warnings and advisories will remain in effect until at least 6 a.m. Sunday, weather service officials said.

Temperatures were expected to fall just slightly after dusk Saturday, with lows in the high 70s and low 80s. Sunday's highs were expected to reach into the low to mid 90s, with continued high humidity, but a cold front will pass through the region late in the day, with cooler temperatures and less humidity expected by Monday.

To help beat the heat this weekend, residents were being urged to drink lots of water, avoid prolonged exposure to the sun and stay in air-conditioned areas, if possible. Cooling centers were also open in several major cities across the state.

The excessive heat is the latest chapter in the unusual weather pattern that New Jersey has been dealing with for the past 12 months.

The state - known for its mostly mild winters - saw record-setting snows in many areas, especially during February when three major storms hit. That was followed by a spring that saw many days of heavy rains and flooding, followed by several stretches of excessive heat that raised drought concerns in many areas.

"It has truly been a wild stretch," state climatologist David Robinson said Saturday afternoon. "Every once in a while you look back and say the atmosphere has really been energized, but these past 12 months? Oh my goodness, it has been crazy. The only component that's been truly absent has been unusually cold temperatures, and not just in the winter months."

Temperature readings of 100 degrees were reported around 3 p.m. Saturday in Point Pleasant, Robinson said, while other shore areas were reporting 98 and 99 degrees. Similar readings were reported in most inland and urban areas.

Heat indexes in most areas ranged from 101 to 106 degrees by late Saturday afternoon.

Heat around the East

In the Mid-Atlantic, already the locus for brutal temperatures several times in July, weather experts warned of the dangerous conditions and residents resigned themselves to coping with the discomfort.

"Oh, it's disgusting. It's already really hot," meteorologist Heather Sheffield of the National Weather Service said of morning temperatures in Washington, D.C.

One possible weather-related death was reported in Maryland, where paramedics said the high temperatures and humidity likely played a role in the death of a 20-year-old man who was biking, went into cardiac arrest and hit his head on a tree as he fell.

With the heat and humidity combining for a possible heat index of over 110 degrees, the weather service issued an excessive heat warning for the first time this year for an area stretching from south of Washington to north of Baltimore, along the Interstate 95 corridor. By midday Saturday, a wide band from lower New England to the Deep South was under a heat advisory.

The thermometer hit 100 degrees in Washington and Baltimore by mid-afternoon, where the heat index was 109. In Norfolk, Va., it was 104 degrees and 108 degrees with the heat index. Elsewhere, temperatures reached 95 degrees in New York City and 96 in Philadelphia. Demand for electricity that rises with the temperatures falls when businesses and offices are closed on the weekend, and many utilities said they could meet the demand.

As temperatures soared toward 100 degrees in New Jersey, Harry Oliver was trying to make sense of it all as he waited to get sandwiches inside a Toms River convenience store.

"When I complain about the heat and humidity, my wife reminds me that I was begging for this type of weather when I was shoveling all that snow this past winter," the 47-year-old Lakehurst resident said. "Now I'm looking forward to the snow again."

Oliver said he and his wife didn't want to cook. "It's hot enough in the house already, even with my air conditioning running 24/7," he said.

In New York City, the heat brought out the inner entrepreneur in one resident.

A.J. Ousmane, 27, a native of the West African nation of Mali, sold ice-cold water bottles for $1 from a cooler on a Harlem sidewalk. He planned to stay out all afternoon, and hoped to make about $55 for the day, after expenses.

"I keep moving with the shade," he said, as he positioned himself in the creeping shadow of a coin-operated laundry.

Poolside, 20-year-old Meredith Watkins slathered herself with SPF 15 and filled her water bottle before working a shift as a lifeguard in suburban Columbus, Ohio. Watkins scouted the swimming pool for an excuse to jump in - something she says she does at least once an hour on hot days.

"You still gotta do your job when it's this hot," she said, twirling a whistle on a red lanyard. "Especially with the humidity, it makes it awful. You just sit there and sweat and sweat."

Kristin Kline, a weather service meteorologist at Mount Holly, N.J., said this summer hasn't been "record-setting hot" in most places. The off-and-on scorching heat that's been felt in the Mid-Atlantic can be blamed on "a Bermuda high" between Bermuda and North Carolina that is pushing hot, humid air into the region, Kline said.

In Pennsylvania, Louie Correa, 55, of Louie's Appliances was out trundling a fan and a kitchen table into a South Philadelphia home. He said that earlier in the day, he had been by the homes of some older residents to make sure they were all right.

"Sometimes they see me knocking on the door, and the neighbors say 'What you want there?' Like this morning, I said 'Oh, just making sure Miss Regina is all right,' 'Just making sure Frank is all right,"' Correa said.

While temperatures climbed, Jason Wish dabbed a sweaty T-shirt on his brow as he loaded crates of tomatoes and bushels of peppers into a truck at a farmer's market in suburban Columbus, Ohio. He and dozens of other farmhands hurried to pack up their produce and escape to air-conditioned vans and pickups.

"It makes me wanna jump in the pond and go swimming," Wish said.

Many hit the beach for relief, though not all were there to soak up the sun.

Jeff Clarkson, 47, and his 12-year-old son Chuck planned to hit the arcades along the Point Pleasant area boardwalk in New Jersey.

"I don't want him out there too long 'cause it could be dangerous," said the elder Clarkson, whose family was visiting from suburban Philadelphia. "But in here, we can spend time together and stay kind of cool, though it's likely to cost me a lot of money by the time we're through."

Not much relief was in the forecast Sunday. Sunday's highs were expected to reach into the low- to mid-90s, but heat indices should be slightly lower - in the high 90s, possibly as high as 101 in cities.

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Associated Press writers Jessico Gresko in Washington, D.C., Verena Dobnik in New York City, Ron Todt in Philadelphia, and Jeannie Nuss in Columbus, Ohio., contributed to this story.

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