NEW YORK – New Yorkers cranked up the air conditioning as a sixth day of punishing heat put an unprecedented strain on power companies.
The heat index at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City hit a staggering 107 degrees at 1 p.m. Friday, the highest mark yet during the heat wave that has gripped the Northeast. The temperature in Manhattan's Central Park topped 90 for a sixth straight day and inched down only to 89 by 11 p.m.
Some relief is on the way, meteorologists say. Though temperatures are forecast to hit the 90s again on Saturday, a cold front Saturday night, with the potential to produce severe thunderstorms, is expected to send temperatures throughout the region dropping to the mid-80s on Sunday.
Consolidated Edison said it broke a record for electricity usage Friday. The utility used 13,214 megawatts at 2 p.m., topping the old mark of 13,189 from July 22, 2011.
The state also set a power record, according to the New York Independent System Operator.
Thousands of customers in upstate New York counties lost power as thunderstorms swept through the region Friday night, National Grid reported. More than 60,000 were still without power early Saturday.
Con Edison said about 1,100 New York City customers were in the dark early Saturday, mostly in Brooklyn and Queens.
Liz Nielsen, who works at Manhattan's David Zwirner art gallery, found a high-tech way to beat the heat: She used a smartphone app to summon Uber, a taxi company that, for a day, was also delivering ice cream.
"It's just so hot. I keep wandering around thinking, where is the oxygen today?" asked Nielson. "I like `on demand' ice cream, especially when it's this hot. I'm sure a lot of people want it right now. We got lucky."
New York City's Department of Homeless Services added more outreach teams to persuade the homeless to leave the baking streets, while Meals-on-Wheels delivered extra water to the elderly and frail. An air quality alert was issued for New York City and Long Island, while Amtrak trains traveling to Manhattan's Penn Station were delayed for hours after the heat caused track issues throughout New England.
Residents of upstate New York did not fare much better.
Greg Simonick, a landscaper in Buffalo, said he'd frequently walk through sprinklers while toiling outside, but would still need to seek refuge indoors every 30 minutes or so.
"I come in the building, find the coolest room and lay on the floor. The tiles are cooler than anything," he said. "I can't complain about hot because it could be blizzarding."
Saratoga Race Course opened as planned for the debut day of the thoroughbred racing season, but extra precautions were in place to take care of the horses. Veterinarians were stationed on the paths while extra ice buckets and water were placed in the jockeys' quarters.