Nightly News   |  July 22, 2011

Extreme heat settles over East Coast

The heat wave that has tormented so much of the country over the past week has now parked over the East Coast. NBC’s Anne Thompson reports.

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>>> here in new york , it arrived. the heat wave that tormented the country this week settled over the east coast . if anything, it has gotten worse. it was 108 degrees in newark, new jersey, today, an all time record for that city. and extreme temperatures are scattered across the map. add the extreme humidity for the heat index and you can see how hot it felt out there. nbc's anne thompson joins us now from times square with more. anne?

>> reporter: good evening, lester. this heat is tough on people and power companies. in new york city , there are scattered power outages tonight affecting some 8,400 residents. another 158,000 people are dealing with reduced voltage. and over in new jersey, there are rolling blackouts , but so far, no catastrophes. today, miserable is spelled n-y-c. temperatures that rivalled the sa hartia desert and humidity reminiscent of the gulf coast combined to turn new york into a grimy sauna.

>> it is fire.

>> reporter: the heat relentless. before dawn , it was already 85 degrees. 90 by the end of rush hour. at noon, it hit the century mark, and set a new record at 104 an hour and a half later. the water was the best place to be. the columbus circle fountain worked for those with two legs and four. but a raw sewage spill in the hudson river closed the waters around manhattan to swimmers and kayakers, and the city warned fishermen not to eat what they catch.

>> if you catch fish in the hudson, don't eat it now. you can fish them, but throw them back.

>> reporter: bike messenger fernando rivera can dodge new york city 's traffic, but not the heat. triple digit temperatures reflecting off the pavement and mouthfuls of pollution made his job even more dangerous.

>> i just want to pick up the bicycle and get on the subway and go home.

>> reporter: at west point, a suspected heat-related tragedy, military officials say 18-year-old jacob bower, a cadet and three-sport athlete, died during a training exercise thursday evening. the record temperatures led to record demand for power in new york city . con ed left voice mails asking customers to conserve.

>> turn off noncritical electric equipment like televisions, computers, microwaves, washers, dryers and air conditioners .

>> reporter: but at the nation's largest independent grid operator, today demand went down, even though its coverage area includes the sweltering mid-atlantic. call it the friday factor.

>> you see a lot of people leave work early. because of that, the buildings have less occupancy and the air conditioners are not working as hard.

>> reporter: a midmorning storm in chicago pelted the city with more than a half inch of rain in just four minutes. while in heat-ravaged pittsburgh, air conditioned buses provided a cool respite for firefighters battling a morning blaze.

>> the clothes are a double-edged sword. they're designed to protect us from burns but they don't allow our body heat to dissipate.

>> reporter: whether you're a firefighter in pittsburgh or a tourist here in times square , the key word is hydrate, because in weather like this, water can save your life. lester?

>> anne thompson in steamy new york tonight, thanks.