Heat swelters East Coast

Photo by Matt Rourke

Photo by Matt Rourke

PHILADELPHIA -- The eastern U.S. cooked for another day Wednesday as unrelenting heat again sent thermometers past 100 degrees in urban ''heat islands,'' buckled roads, slowed trains and pushed utilities toward the limit of the electrical grid's capacity.

Philadelphia hit 100 degrees for the second straight day, breaking a record of 98 degrees set in 1999. Baltimore hit 100 for the third straight day and Newark, N.J., hit triple digits for the fourth straight day. New York's Central Park was at 99 degrees at 2 p.m.

Sue Robels, 22, was getting out of the heat at Philadelphia's Franklin Institute science museum for an exhibit on Cleopatra.

''My apartment isn't air conditioned, so it's going to be museums, movies, Starbucks, anywhere else but at home today,'' she said.

Scattered power outages affected customers up and down the coast and usage approached record levels. In the Washington, D.C., area, nearly 1,000 customers were without power Wednesday, while New Jersey's largest utility, Public Service Electric & Gas, reported about 6,300 customers without power. Consolidated Edison in New York said it was working to restore power to about 6,300 customers, down from outages to 18,700 customers Tuesday.

Tatiana Solis, 17, was getting ready to deliver newspapers Wednesday in New York City, where forecasters predicted a high of up to 99 degrees.

''I have asthma and when it's hot, it's too exhausting,'' she said. ''I can't breathe.''

In Reading, Pa., Lisy Colon brought three of her grandchildren to a Salvation Army cooling station. Colon has diabetes and said she worried she would succumb to the heat inside her daughter's apartment, leaving the children -- an 11-year-old and 2-year-old twins -- by themselves.

''I was so scared. I said, 'We're not staying here today,''' Colon said as her grandchildren played basketball inside. ''For me, it was too hot.''

The heat also forced nursing homes with power problems to evacuate and buckled highways near Albany and in the Philadelphia area. On New York's Long Island, a radio station was distributing free bottled water to day laborers, while human services workers in Pittsburgh were doing the same for the homeless there.

The hot weather is especially dangerous for the elderly, but even the young and fit were having trouble.

The U.S. Naval Academy said four midshipmen who had just completed an obstacle course needed medical attention for possible heat exhaustion after they completed an endurance course that included climbing cargo netting and jumping over logs. In Middletown, Conn., police charged two high school assistant football coaches with reckless endangerment after a player collapsed while running an uphill sprint Tuesday evening.

New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and other dense, built-up areas are getting hit with the heat in a way their counterparts in suburbs and rural areas aren't. Cities absorb more solar energy during the day and are slower to release it at night.