July 22, 2011 / 7:18 AM / 6 years ago

U.S. East Coast hit by searing heat, records broken

5 Min Read

<p>A boy cools off at the Crown Fountain at Millennium Park in Chicago, July 21, 2011.Jim Young</p>

BOSTON (Reuters) - East Coast residents sought refuge on Friday from sweltering temperatures, flocking to beaches, pools and air-conditioned malls as the mercury climbed into the triple-digits along the U.S. Eastern seaboard.

The temperature in Newark, New Jersey soared to 108 degrees, shattering an all-time high of 105 degrees recorded in 2001, according to AccuWeather.com.

Baltimore's Inner Harbor hit 107 degrees, with its heat index reaching 120 degrees.

"This is truly a spectacular heat wave, especially considering its size -- how hot it's been in many areas of the Midwest and now the East Coast," said AccuWeather.com senior meteorologist Mike Pigott.

The National Weather Service issued excessive heat warnings and advisories for wide swaths of the country's mid-section and along the East Coast from Maine to Georgia.

By mid-afternoon on Friday, single-day records were broken in New York's Central Park, Philadelphia and at Washington Dulles International Airport, among others.

The higher-than-normal temperatures were likely to hover over the eastern half of the United States for "the next couple of weeks," the Weather Service said.

In Pittsburgh, city worker Brian Hilliard was sweating heavily as he tossed recycling bags into a truck.

"We're drinking gallons of water, and we're just killing ourselves today," he said.

At a nearby supermarket, teenager Jenny Marze said she had been seeking relief inside the air-conditioned store.

"It's like an arctic rush in there, but out here it's like Mexico or something," she said.

The heat roasted the Midwest for nearly a week, potentially responsible for at least 34 deaths in ten states, before it moved east.

On Thursday, an 18-year-old cadet at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., collapsed and died during outdoor training exercises. Military authorities were investigating whether the afternoon heat played a role, a spokesman said.

In Michigan, rolling power blackouts were instituted to help relieve stress on power plants, according to the Weather Service. It said 30,000 people were without power in Detroit.

In the Midwest, thunderstorms rolled through, providing some relief from the stifling heat.

<p>Justin Morgan dives for a football as he tries to keep cool in the water at North Avenue Beach in Chicago July 20, 2011.Jim Young</p>

"There's a frontal boundary draped across central Iowa into north central Illinois that has been the focus for spotty thunderstorm development," said Jim Keeney of the Weather Service. "South of that boundary will be stuck in the heat and humidity for the next week."

In New York City, the heat prompted power provider Consolidated Edison to reduce voltage in some neighborhoods in so-called brownouts.

PJM, the nation's biggest power grid operator, said consumers used a record amount of power on Thursday and it expected near-record demand on Friday.

Offering a low-energy option in the heat, food bloggers posted a recipe for "Car-Baked Chocolate Chip Cookies."

"Park your car in the sun on a 100F+ day," the recipe on Baking Bites advised. "Place baking sheet on car dashboard."

Slideshow (13 Images)

The cookies take up to three hours to bake, it said.

Near Boston, Zoo New England staff were helping keep lions cool with "bloodsicles," giant ice pops flavored with blood from their lunches, mammal curator John Piazza said.

Permanent and make-shift misting stations were helping keep other zoo animals cool and wet, he said.

"The two ostriches are camped out pretty close, not in direct spray, to the mister," he said.

Outside Philadelphia, at the King of Prussia shopping mall, pedestrian traffic has been up about 20 percent this week due to the weather, said marketing manager Kathy Smith.

"Lots of strollers, lots of kids and lot of parents trying to beat the heat," she said.

At Busch Gardens in Virginia, workers at the amusement park's zoo were distributing blocks of ice to wolves and hosing down all its animals frequently.

The park's daily sheep walks and predator presentations were suspended until the heat dissipates, a spokesman said.

In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo extended hours at state swimming pools, beaches and parks through Saturday evening.

That cool welcome, however, did not extend to several New York City waterfronts affected by a raw sewage discharge into the Hudson River after a treatment plant fire.

Citing the sewage, the health department advised against swimming at four city beaches and against any activity such as kayaking on the Hudson River, parts of the East River and the Harlem River.

Reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York, Daniel Lovering in Pittsburgh, Dave Warner in Philadelphia, Matthew Ward in Chesapeake, Virginia and Karin Matz in Chicago; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Greg McCune

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