By Ben Brumfield and Leslie Bentz
(CNN) — No, rubber banding an ice tray to your belly won’t help. Frozen water bottles in front of a fan won’t either.
This heat is a beast.
A hot, humid beast that’s bear-hugging the northeast quarter of the United States. And Wednesday, it’ll just squeeze tighter.
The high temperatures and humidity will drive the heat index into the 100-degree range. That’s a measure of how hot it feels to your body — and in Philadelphia, it could feel like a broiling 110 degrees.
The National Weather Service posted excessive heat warnings for metro Philadelphia, northern Delaware and much of southern New Jersey, where temperatures in Trenton were expected to hit 96 on Wednesday. Highs in the mid-90s were forecast as far north as Burlington, Vermont, while Boston and New York were expected to see 93- and 92-degree afternoons.
The tired, sweating masses
In Washington, the heat will bump ozone levels to code orange, posing a danger for children, the elderly and people suffering from heart and lung disease.
On Tuesday, the odor of sweating masses of tourists added a certain ambiance to the national monuments at the height of tourist season. Not that Washingtonians need another reason to complain about tourists, one resident joked.
Complaints flooded social media about subway cars with broken air conditioning units. After a long day in the office, commuters were treated to an unexpected sweat lodge session on the way home.
Making things worse, a failing water main in suburban Prince George’s County, Maryland, led authorities to warn that water might be cut off for some residents as a result. But sanitation officials reported Wednesday afternoon that while some restrictions on water use were being imposed, no one would be without service.
“If we continue to conserve, I am confident the system will remain full while we complete repairs,” Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission chief Jerry Johnson said in a written statement.
Beating the heat
The sauna-like conditions are driving people to desperate measures. The most obvious: Cranking up the air conditioning.
So many New Yorkers are doing that, they’re close to setting a record for electricity usage, utility officials said. Electricity provider Con Edison’s record is 13,189 megawatts, set on July 22, 2011.
Current consumption is apparently challenging the grid. Con Edison faced a bump in outages and has sent crews hustling to restore power to more than 7,600 customers since the heat rose Sunday.
If parking in front of the air conditioner isn’t cutting it, try to fly away.
JetBlue is offering “hot seats” promotions whenever the temperature in New York breaks 90 degrees.
They went like hotcakes Tuesday. Sorry, “Sold out today,” read a banner plastered over JetBlue’s website.
But the special runs through Saturday. So there’s hope yet.
The National Weather Service defines a heat wave as two or more days of “abnormally and uncomfortably hot and unusually humid weather.”
And levity aside, it can have deadly consequences.
Anyone who lived in New York in 1972 will tell you that. A two-week wave killed 891 people then. On Wednesday, 33 of the more than 4,000 fire calls in New York were for heat-related issues, Fire Department spokeswoman Elisheva Zakheim said.
The city has recorded one heat-related death so far this year, on July 8, the New York medical examiner’s office said.
Fortunately, this wave hasn’t claimed any lives. But the New York Fire Department did respond to 37 heat-related incidents Monday and 25 more as of late Tuesday. And the heat index Wednesday in New York, Philadelphia and Washington will probably be higher Wednesday than in Phoenix, CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen said.
The Red Cross and the New York mayor’s office are warning people to stay in cool spaces and drink plenty of water.
The city has opened cooling centers for those who don’t have access to air conditioning.
The oppressive heat wave, which extends from Minnesota to Massachusetts, will last until the weekend, Hennen said.
A strong cold front will move through the Great Lakes on Friday and into the Northeast on Saturday, bringing an end to the heat, but also bringing severe thunderstorms capable of producing widespread wind damage.
CNN’s Laura Ly contributed to this report.
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