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Coming Heat Wave Threatens East Coast

DEEPTI HAJELA   07/ 5/10 07:03 PM ET   AP

East Coast Heat

NEW YORK — The heat wasn't going to keep Jerryll Freels inside on his vacation.

The 28-year-old made his way through Times Square on Monday, 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.

A string of hot days were expected this week, with temperatures en route to 100-plus degrees in some places. Temperatures reached into at least the 90s Monday from Maine to Texas, into the Southwest and Death Valley.

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," said Brian Korty, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Camp Springs, Md. He said after that, a system coming in off the Atlantic Ocean would bring in cooler temperatures.

Monday was a day off for many to mark Sunday's Independence Day holiday. The extended weekend aided utilities by lowering demand for power, said Lissette Santana, a spokeswoman for PPL Electric Utilities in Allentown, Pa.

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."

In New York, Yasser Badr manned his steel food cart in the sun outside Penn Station. Surrounded by the grill, fryer and gyro rotisserie all going full throttle, he was already covered in sweat. A question about the heat elicited only a resigned laugh.

"This kind of metal, it makes everything more hot," he said, patting the wall of the cart.

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

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.

While some tried to stay inside, others chose to brave the heat, including tourists who wanted to make the most of their holiday trips. In Washington, people were out exploring the city on the final day of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall.

Ben Mullen just returned from Iraq, "so he's really used to it," said his wife, Stephanie Mullen. The couple from upstate New York planned to walk by the White House and visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

"We just told each other we'll go slow, and if we get too tired, we'll go back to the hotel and go sit by the pool," she said.

In Philadelphia where the high-90s heat was rising from the sidewalk, Yvette Valiente, 40, of Baltimore walked nearly a mile round-trip to try to sample Jim's Steaks – with four young sons and a niece in tow. But with the line wrapped around the building, they went elsewhere for the Philly specialties. The family was sightseeing in the city after some of the children visited on a class trip.

"We just got our cheesesteaks, so we're doing OK," said Valiente, who said the family could not reschedule the trip despite the heat. "It's the last day off before we go back to work."

In the mid-Atlantic, the heat was expected to get worse Tuesday, with highs of up to 102 degrees. Wednesday was forecast to be the most humid day of the stretch.

Santana, the Pennsylvania utility spokeswoman, cautioned consumers to conserve energy on hot days.

"Tomorrow's another day, and you never really know with the weather," she said.

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

Korty reiterated that danger from increasing temperatures is 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."

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Associated Press writers Eva Dou and Samantha Gross in New York, Maryclaire Dale in Philadelphia, and David Melendy and Sarah Karush in Washington contributed to this report.

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Filed by Jeff Muskus  |