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East Coast Heat May Strain Energy Grid

With a scorching holiday weekend in the rearview mirror, a real summer sizzle is about to wash over parts of the United States.

After an extended Fourth of July weekend when temperatures inched into at least the 90s from Maine to Texas and into the Southwest and Death Valley, the mid-Atlantic is embarking on a string of intensely hot days, with temperatures in some places closing in on 100-plus degrees.

“It’s a once in decade heat wave with what we’re seeing here,” Accuweather forecaster Bernie Rayno tells CBS News.

Temperatures could reach as high as 102 degrees on Tuesday, meteorologists said, and Wednesday was forecast to be the most humid day of the stretch.

And unlike on the long Independence Day weekend, when utilities had lower demand for power, the masses returning to work Tuesday amid the possible record-setting heat across the Northeast threatened to push utilities usage to record levels.

CBS News correspondent Jeff Glor reports that power outages have already affected some areas of Northern New Jersey, with about 17,000 people left without air conditioning or lights for a period of time on Monday afternoon.

Demand was anticipated to increase when offices reopened Tuesday, said Bob McGee, spokesman for the Consolidated Edison utility in New York. Con Ed was preparing for peak usage to break the record set on Aug. 2, 2006, he said.

In the East, warm air is “sitting over the top of us, and it’s not really going to budge much for the next day or two,” Brian Korty, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Camp Springs, Md., said Monday. After that, he said, a system coming in off the Atlantic Ocean would bring in cooler temperatures.

Korty stressed that the danger from increasing temperatures was likely to grow.

“As the temperature and humidity both get higher, the stress it can put on the human body increases,” he said, “and therefore the higher the temperature and higher the humidity, the greater the chance of people having problems.”

One person affected was Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Tim Murray, who was hospitalized Monday evening after marching in five parades in 90-degree heat over the holiday weekend and feeling under the weather, his spokesman said. Murray was in good spirits but was to stay overnight at a hospital in Worcester, 40 miles west of Boston, for observation, spokesman Kyle Sullivan said.

The weekend heat also was blamed for at least one death.

Temperatures that pushed into the mid-90s across much of Michigan claimed the life of a homeless woman found lying next to a car in a suburban Detroit parking lot Sunday afternoon. The Oakland County medical examiner’s office told the Detroit Free Press newspaper the woman died of hyperthermia, an abnormally high body temperature.

In Indianapolis, which had a high of 90 degrees Sunday, police said they arrested a couple for endangering their 2-year-old daughter by taking her begging in the heat. The parents, who had $98 when arrested, were jailed Monday on child endangerment charges. The girl was treated for heat exposure.

A major utility restricted water use on the New Jersey shore, forbidding residents from watering lawns and washing cars.

About 17,000 customers in northern New Jersey lost power for more than four hours Monday, though Jersey Central Power and Light spokesman Jim Markey said it wasn’t clear whether the outage was related to the heat.

The high-90s heat rising up from the sidewalk on Independence Mall in Philadelphia on Monday had history teacher Joan Whalen eager to get home to San Antonio.

“We went to D.C., too, when it was record hot (last week). I’m tired of the heat,” said Whalen, 65, as she exited the Liberty Bell Pavilion.

In downtown Newark, N.J., on Monday, where temperatures crept toward 100 degrees, sidewalks that normally would be teeming with pedestrians were practically barren. Street vendor Alex Gam, wearing a hat and sunglasses to ward off the sun, lamented being outside in a spot devoid of shade for several hours with little to show for it.

“There’s no business today, it’s very slow,” he said. “It’s too hot. Everybody’s at the beach.”

Just then, two women approached, and each bought a handbag, providing Gam a brief reward.

In New York’s Times Square, Jerryll Freels wasn’t going to allow the heat to keep him inside on his vacation.

The 28-year-old was combating the hot weather with a wet white washcloth over his head and a water bottle in hand.

“It’s hot, but I know how to stay cool,” said Freels, visiting from Minneapolis.

For others, though, there was no getting away from the heat.

Richard Willis, 52, was one of a few dozen homeless men in Franklin Square, a small park in downtown Washington. He spent his day drinking water and staying in the shade.

“That’s all you can do, really,” said Willis, who wore jeans and a long-sleeve shirt and sat under a tall tree near a fountain. “I’ve been through many summers. I’m experienced.”

The long weekend had loads of people out seeking relief. Five Connecticut state parks had to stop admitting people because they had reached capacity.

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