Deja Blues as Heat Wave Zaps Power-Deprived Queens Neighborhood

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The New York Sun

NEW YORK (AP) – As ceiling fans sputtered and refrigerators failed, residents of an electricity-challenged Queens neighborhood suffered through scattered power outages Wednesday that brought back memories of last month’s brutal 10-day blackout _ only this time, with temperatures that hit 101.

Astoria grocer Salm Ali, who lost $17,000 in produce during the big blackout, felt a familiar sickening sense as he threw away $5,000 worth of produce Wednesday morning as meteorologists predicted another day of 3-digit temperatures. His Liberty Deli and Grocery lost power Tuesday night, and was only getting sporadic electricity the next morning.

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“This is the life,” he said sarcastically. “Even the fan isn’t working.”

Neither were the air conditioners or the refrigerators. Consolidated Edison reported about 1,200 residents in Astoria lost power overnight, and nearly all had electricity restored by Wednesday afternoon as the utility’s trucks turned out in force around the neighborhood. The last blackout affected 100,000 residents in northwest Queens.

Anthony Giannole, manager/owner of the Sunoco gas station on Astoria Boulevard, said the last power outage cost him $8,000 in business. The repair work on Wednesday blocked access to his station, once again hitting him in the wallet.

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“I can’t sell any gas because of our friends at Con Edison,” said Giannole. “It’s getting very annoying.”

But power outages were sporadic and spaced out despite temperatures that soared to 101 degrees in the afternoon at LaGuardia Airport, a short hop from Astoria, and 96 degrees in Central Park, where the record for the date was 100. On Long Island, the temperature hit 97 in Islip, while White Plains in the northern suburbs was at 96.

On Wednesday afternoon, 4,500 Con Edison customers in and around New York City _ about 18,000 people _ were without power, about half of them in Westchester County, with another 1,200 in the Bronx and 900 in Queens. On Long Island, about 2,200 outages were reported by Wednesday afternoon. Both Con Ed and the Long Island Power Authority reported record electrical demand on Tuesday.

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“It’s unbearable, it’s oppressive,” said Joy Haber, 44, of Woodbury, who canceled a trip into Manhattan because of the stifling weather. Her 13-year-old son, Sean, skipped day camp when his bus arrived with a malfunctioning air conditioner.

They weren’t the only ones staying home. The platinum-selling Dixie Chicks postponed their Wednesday night show at the outdoor Jones Beach Theater due to the sweltering conditions. There was no word on a makeup date.

In the Riverdale section of the Bronx, 175 senior citizens were evacuated Tuesday night when the power went out at the Atria adult living facility, authorities said.

The National Weather Service again posted warnings for excessive heat and air stagnation due to the stifling humidity. Temperatures overnight were only expected to drop into the upper 80s, with another brutal day of heat expected Thursday.

Con Ed CEO Kevin Burke met for an hour with Mayor Michael Bloomberg at City Hall, where they discussed the company’s preliminary report on the earlier Queens blackout. The report offered no conclusions on the cause of the outage, although Bloomberg said the city will press the utility for answers.

“Am I satisfied with it? Of course not,” Bloomberg told a news conference where he promised the heat would soon be on the utility.

“We will find out what happened, get to the bottom of this and we will hold Con Ed responsible,” the mayor said.

City officials reported a 20 percent increase in calls to the Emergency Medical Service on Tuesday, a 10 percent jump in police 911 calls, and a 50 percent increase in fire calls. City firefighters on Tuesday responded to 1,800 fires, most of them minor.

Nearly a quarter-million people flocked to city beaches to beat the heat. The problem, according to Bloomberg, was many went home and then flicked their air conditioners on. While power demand usually decreases when the sun goes down, the opposite occurred in the city Tuesday night.

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On the Net:

New York City Cooling Centers: http://www.nyc.gov/html/oem/html/hazards/heat_cooling.shtml

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