Thu, Jul 20, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Sweltering heat kills at least six in US

HEALTH THREAT At least three other deaths were likely related to the extreme heat, which also caused a power failure at LaGuardia Airport and affected commuter trains

AP , PHILADELPHIA

Sunbathers endure the heat in New York's Union Square park on Tuesday. Temperatures in the metropolitan area were expected to reach into the mid-30s Celsius.

PHOTO: AP

The heat wave that has gripped most of the US and killed at least six people showed few signs of abating on Tuesday and may persist until the weekend in some areas. Cities across the US took steps to ease the health threat and conserve energy.

In New York City, the mayor ordered city offices to turn off unnecessary lights. In Pennsylvania, swimming pools stayed open late and summer school classes were dismissed early.

In Manhattan's Washington Square Park, sweaty residents cheered when a large fountain shot on and started wading in the ankle-deep water. No one worried about whether it was dirty.

"It's too hot to care about that stuff right now," said Alex Glowacki of Brooklyn. "And anyway, it doesn't look all green and slimy like it usually does, so I feel OK without shoes on."

The thermometer hit 35?C by 2:30pm in Central Park, the National Weather Service said. The heat index, measuring the combined effects of heat and humidity, was expected to reach 40?C.

At least six deaths have been blamed on the heat, and the weather was suspected in at least three others.

Heat advisories and warnings were lifted for much of Pennsylvania, except for the southeastern portion that includes Philadelphia. Parts of the US Midwest also got a little relief from a Canadian cool front. The 8am temperature in Milwaukee was 18?C, compared with 24?C at the same time on Monday.

The Northeast could get a break starting on Tuesday night, with scattered showers and thunderstorms expected for parts of the region; however, the heat was likely to persist in the southern plains until today. Forecasts in Nebraska called for temperatures around 43?C yesterday.

In New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg reminded residents to conserve electricity. He directed City Hall to do its part: Only natural light filtered into the rotunda on Tuesday, and some passageways and rooms were dark.

"There's plenty of light coming through the windows -- you don't have to keep the lights on -- and if everybody did some of that, that would really save some electricity," the mayor said.

As the temperature rose to almost 37?C, an electrical cable failed at LaGuardia Airport, knocking out power to one terminal and part of a second terminal for several hours. American Airlines canceled 45 flights, and Delta canceled 11.

The heat was blamed for the death of a Philadelphia woman found in her home on Monday, and outreach workers continued to check on homeless and elderly people. The city closed summer school at 11am again on Tuesday in buildings without air conditioning.

Utilities set records for electricity usage, and in Connecticut health departments advised people without air conditioning to cool off in senior centers, malls and movie theaters.

New York Governor George Pataki waived admission fees to Long Island state beaches from 3pm to 8pm until today.

Amtrak travelers riding between Washington and New York on Tuesday evening experienced delays of at least an hour that conductors blamed on the extreme heat, which requires trains to travel at reduced speeds.

Transportation officials in Connecticut monitored the overhead lines that power some commuter trains to New York City because the cables tend to sag in extreme heat, causing delays.

In suburban Philadelphia on Tuesday, a 23-year-old man with cerebral palsy died after apparently being left in a sweltering van by accident, authorities said.

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