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Heat wave socks East Coast

Temperatures reach triple digits. In N.Y., Queen Elizabeth doesn't break a sweat.

July 07, 2010|Geraldine Baum

NEW YORK — How hot was it Tuesday on the East Coast?

"I feel like I'm taking an endless hot yoga class, fully clothed," said Marcy Leash, 28, emerging from the subway in Manhattan's Union Square.

"It's like driving into a hair dryer," Alex Goren, 70, wrote in a text message as he tooled around Long Island's swanky East End with the top down on his red convertible.

"It feels like I'm standing behind a muffler out here," said Megan Heltzel, 23, on a street corner in Washington.

For the third day in a row, triple-digit temperatures created insufferably hot, sticky conditions across the mid-Atlantic region and beyond. With people returning to work after the July 4 weekend, energy companies were asking users Tuesday to crank down air conditioners to conserve energy.

Con Edison, which serves New York City and Westchester County, N.Y., suggested setting thermostats at 78 degrees instead of 71. "Putting the AC up just a few degrees makes a big difference," said Elizabeth Clark of Con Edison.

"We're melting," Betsy Rapoport, a book editor who lives in White Plains, N.Y., wrote in an e-mail after leaving her bedroom air conditioner on the "energy saver" setting overnight.

With heat advisories in effect through Wednesday and meteorologists not expecting coastal breezes to provide relief until Friday, officials were cautioning residents to stay inside with air conditioning as long as they could, drink extra water and check on relatives and neighbors.

The heat wave has been blamed for the deaths of a 92-year-old Philadelphia woman and a homeless woman in Detroit, the Associated Press said.

"This is going to be a dangerous few days and we should be doing everything we can to reach out and help the people and the places we already know are vulnerable," said New York University professor Eric Klinenberg, author of "Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago," about the inadequate response to the historic 1995 heat wave that led to 739 deaths in Chicago.

The broadcast media should take heat waves seriously, he said, and offer practical advice for surviving them. "The people who are going to die in a heat wave aren't reading Twitter feeds and going online," he said. "They're listening to the radio and maybe watching TV."

The temperature in Central Park, usually one of the city's cooler spots, reached a record 100 degrees by mid-Tuesday, but AccuWeather.com meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said the humidity made it feel more like 111.

"This is by far the most substantial heat wave of the past decade around here," Sosnowski said. "For the old-timers, it falls short of the memorable ones of the 1930s and '50s. ... But any time we get a several-day stretch like this ... even staying out of the sun without air conditioning is dangerous."

One octogenarian who wouldn't be slowed by the sun was the queen of England, who came to New York on Tuesday for the first time in 30 years to address the United Nations and pay tribute to the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.

In the late afternoon, the hottest part of the day, Queen Elizabeth II, 84, laid a wreath at the site of the former World Trade Center, now mostly a construction zone filled with heavy machinery and metal frameworks for new buildings. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat and white gloves, she greeted and chatted with several victims' relatives -- and was about the only person at the ceremony who didn't appear flushed in the blazing sun.

Nile Berry, 17, whose father, David, died in the attacks, marveled at her composure. "I think it's something about being royal," Berry said. "You don't sweat at all."

Not everybody could endure with such equanimity.

In Washington, two new arrivals were having doubts about sticking around. Jennifer Olney, 21, a summer intern from North Carolina, and Ben Healy, 22, a recent college graduate from Massachusetts, said they found themselves perspiring while sitting in the shade.

In the time it took to get from the Georgetown Cupcake store to a bench outside, their confections' frosting had melted into a gooey pool of butter and sugar.

"As exciting as this town is, with all the opportunities it has," Healy said, "I'm thinking twice about jumping on a plane to move down here. This heat is brutal."

geraldine.baum@ latimes.com

Times staff writers Tina Susman in New York, Faye Fiore in Arlington, Va., and Melissa Healy in Washington, and Julia Love in the Washington bureau contributed to this report.

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