First heat-related death in NYC

July 8, 2010 1:22:16 PM PDT
The Medical Examiner says a 46-year-old woman found in Rego Park on Tuesday died in part from heat exposure.

The woman was found at 63-34 Saunders Street in Rego Park, Queens, at 1:00 Tuesday afternoon.

She was taken to North Shore Long Island Jewish Hospital - Forest Hills, where she died soon afterwards.

Hospital thermometers registered her body temperature as 108 degrees, but that is only because that's how high the thermometers go. Her temperature could have been much hotter.

The medical examiner says she died from heat exposure and natural causes.

Her name was not released.

Temperatures eased on Thursday, but humidity increased sharply.

The National Weather Service says the high reached 100 degrees in Central Park at 3 p.m., on Wednesday breaking the record for the day set in 1993. The temperature hit a record 103 yesterday.

At Con Edison headquarters, the company reported only a handful of outages because of the heat.

It was little consolation to one neighborhood in Woodside where they had no power for days.

It was 93 degrees inside one home. The meat spoiled. Neighbors say they are furious at Con Ed.

After working on things underground, the problem now seems to be overhead lines heating up.

"We can't take this no more. Yesterday my head go so numb, I couldn't hear anything and I thought I was in a plane from the heat. I mean why should we suffer like that?" Erma Dinis said.

We are happy to report that the electricity was back Wednesday night for just about everyone who lost it in the five boroughs.

Mary Louis has been struggling through the blazing heat in Flatbush.

"I need some ice cubes," she said.

She and her neighbors in Flatbush were without power for 15 hours. Their apartments got so hot, being outside felt like relief.

"It must be over 100 right now. I can't stand it. I just stay outside," Camilus Bresnel said.

Con Ed workers parked a truck on East 21st Street to distribute dry ice to help residents preserve the food they had in their refrigerators. By 6:00 p.m. utility workers had restored power here.

An even bigger challenge was the power outage in Woodside, which had homeowners sweltering since Monday.

"We just stayed in the car, went to movies, the mall, anything to stay out of the house," Bridget Kilgallen said.

Linemen fixed that problem by 8:30 pm.

"Finally, after so many calls they are here. We suffered. We went thru a lot," Lillian Ismail said.

People returning home were overjoyed at the prospect of turning on their air conditioners.

"I'm very excited, very grateful, they did a great job," Shahed Khan said.

Earlier on Wednesday, Con Edison cut power by eight percent to 51-thousand customers across eight neighborhoods in Queens and Brooklyn.

A lot of companies voluntarily cut their lights. They lowered thermostats to between 76 and 78. The fans went on.

The MTA responded by cutting power to some escalators and elevators.

"A lot of people have limited walking abilities and breathing abilities. It was very difficult for them. Some of them are still down there trying to get up," one resident named Patricia said.

Luisa Velez struggled up a non-working escalator and literally cried from the pain.

"These things should be worked out first. Handicapped people are disabled. Something has got to be done," Velez said.

Yet Con Edison defended its decision and so did city officials, who said a voltage reduction was necessary to save the system for everybody else.

"It's a good precautionary measure by Con Ed to keep usage down, but we are very concerned. Conserve, conserve, conserve," Emergency Management Commissioner Joe Bruno said.

In Queens, authorities are waiting the results of an autopsy on a 46-year-old woman who possibly died due to the heat.

Hospital thermometers registered the women's body temperature as 108 degrees, but that is only because that's how high they go. An autopsy will be conducted Thursday to determine an exact cause of death.

Authorities also urged residents not to open fire hydrants. It's not only illegal, but could impact firefighters abilities to put out potential fires.

Spray Caps and Fire Hydrants:

Opening fire hydrants without spray caps is wasteful and dangerous. Illegally opened hydrants can lower water pressure, which can cause problems at hospitals and other medical facilities and hinder fire-fighting by reducing the flow of water to hoses and pumps.

The powerful force of an open hydrant without a spray cap can also push children into oncoming traffic. Call 311 to report an open hydrant.

Hydrants can be opened legally if equipped with a city-approved spray cap. One illegally opened hydrant wastes up to 1,000 gallons of water per minute, while a hydrant with a spray cap only puts out around 25 gallons per minute.

Spray caps can be obtained by someone 18 or over, free of charge, at local firehouses.

Customers in Staten Island were hit the hardest with power outages, and crews are trying to restore service there.

The streets sizzled and deli ice cream just melted when the coolers shut down. Some people and businesses waited more than 12 hours to see their electricity restored.

There are similar outages and frazzled utility crews scattered all across the region.

Tuesday's record-breaking temperatures drove people out of their homes, while Con Ed's meters peaked. The utility has 93,000 miles of underground cable and 1,200 distribution feeders. With the system being pushed to the max, Con Ed says it is holding up well, though not everyone agrees.

"I just didn't think we'd have the outages...even though we all knew that there'd be a lot of usage," one resident said. "I figured they could handle it, but apparently not so."

The New York area is in its fourth straight day of high demand and high temperatures. At Con Ed headquarters, they say the power grid is cooking with a cumulative effect on cables and transformers.

They say the grid becomes more prone to failure as the strain continues. Con Ed used automated calls to urge its customers to turn off non-essential appliances.

"The system is designed for what we're experiencing," Con Ed's John Miksad said. "Does that mean we're going to have a perfectly running system? No. We're going to certainly have scattered outages."

New York City opened 500 cooling centers for the desperately overheated. Newark and Jersey City also have centers open. City pools and beaches are also open to help people beat the heat.



Thirteen firefighters suffered minor injuries related to the soaring temperatures that made it more difficult for them to do their work.

The firefighters were hit by dehydration and exhaustion while battling a Queens fire on Tuesday morning. Heavy equipment meant to protect them from flames can work against them in the heat.

The Fire Department says it took nearly an hour and a half to get the fire under control. It spread among a group of two-story buildings sharing a roof. No civilians were injured.

The heat is also impacting animals. It's so hot, Belmont Park in New York scrapped Wednesday's card. There was no racing at Belmont on Tuesday.

The city has also rolled out new Water On the Go stations, which are great if you need to fill a water bottle on the go or if you need to cool down your pet.

"Use an air conditioner or keep a window open if you don't have one," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. "Consider going to a library, a shopping mall or a movie theater to get a break from the heat."

The challenge of the week is to stay hydrated and stay near the air conditioner. If you need a cooling center, you can find the one closest to you by dialing 311 or logging on to

Heat illness is serious. Prolonged exposure to the heat can be harmful and potentially fatal. The added stress caused by heat can also aggravate heart or lung disease even without symptoms of heat illness.

Call your doctor or go to the emergency room right away if you have these symptoms:

  • Hot, dry skin or cold, clammy skin
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Shortness of breath or trouble breathing
  • Confusion, hallucinations, disorientation

    The risk for getting sick during a heat wave is increased for people who:

  • Are younger than 5 or older than 64
  • Have chronic medical or mental health conditions
  • Take medications, which can disrupt the regulation of body temperature
  • Are overweight

    If you have a medical condition or take medications, check with your physician about precautions during hot weather. Family, friends and neighbors who are at high risk will need extra help during this period of extreme heat.

    Think about how you can help someone you know get to an air-conditioned place.

    Ready New York - Beat the Heat Tips:

  • Use an air conditioner if you have one.
  • If you do not have an air conditioner, go to a cooler place, such as an air-conditioned store, mall, museum or movie theater. Or, visit a cooling center.
  • Use a fan if the air is not too hot. Fans work best at night to bring in cooler air from outside. Use a fan only when the air conditioner is on or the windows are open.
  • Drink plenty of water or other fluids, even if you don't feel thirsty. Avoid beverages containing alcohol, caffeine, or high amounts of sugar.
  • If possible, stay out of the sun. When you're in the sun, wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing that covers as much of your skin as possible, wear a hat to protect your face and head, and use sunscreen (at least SPF 15) to protect exposed skin.
  • Never leave children, pets, or those who require special care in a parked car.
  • Avoid strenuous activity, or plan it for the coolest part of the day, usually in the morning between 4 a.m. and 7 a.m.
  • Be careful if you take a cold shower to stay cool ? sudden temperature changes can make you feel dizzy or sick.

    Conserve Energy:

  • During periods of extremely hot and humid weather, electricity use rises, which can cause power disruptions.
  • Don't set your air conditioner thermostat lower than 78 degrees.
  • Use air conditioners only when you're home, and only in rooms you're using. If you want to cool your home before you return, set a timer that turns on no more than 30 minutes before you arrive.
  • Turn off nonessential appliances.

    For more information on coping with extreme heat, see the Ready New York: Beat the Heat guide at

    For more information on the health effects associated with extreme heat visit