Record-breaking heat wreaks havoc in Queens

By Dustin Brown

A record-breaking heat wave put record-breaking pressure on the power grids in Queens last week, forcing businesses and residents to conserve energy while driving others outside to combat the triple-digit temperatures with doses of ice cream and dips in the pool.

Although several areas of Queens reported isolated power failures, the only large outage during the heat wave occurred last Thursday in Douglaston, where 4,500 customers were left without power for about two hours.

While many businesses had to improvise to the whims of an uncertain power supply, many Queens residents who were at home could enjoy the comforts of a cool splash in the water.

Temperatures at LaGuardia Airport peaked at 104 degrees last Thursday, narrowly beating the record-breaking high of 103 degrees registered in Central Park on the same day, said meteorologist Pete Wichrowski at the National Weather Service.

Last Thursday, the hottest day in Central Park since 1977, marked only the sixth time a temperature exceeding 102 degrees has been recorded there.

Demand on the electricity grids in the Con Edison service area hit an all-time record load of 12,207 megawatts at 3 p.m. the same day, leading the New York Independent Systems Operator to order a 5 percent voltage reduction to ease high demand between 3:15 and 6:15 p.m.

Although the overall system proved capable of handling the loads, high temperatures caused scattered power outages in Rego Park, Maspeth, South Ozone Park, Jamaica, Flushing, Bayside and Queens Village.

The Douglaston outage between 10 a.m. and noon last Thursday was caused when a transformer shut down to protect the equipment from overheating, said Con Edison spokesman Arthur Cronson.

At the Bayside Office Tower in Northern Boulevard, administrative employees for Personal Touch Home Care were given an extended lunch — paid for by the company — until the power came back on.

“We could do paperwork, but nobody does paperwork anymore,” said Trudy Balk, the vice president of operations.

A doctor’s office in the same building posted a sign on the door canceling all appointments due to the blackout.

The Bay Terrace Post Office lost power for 15 minutes, forcing clerks to close down the lobby and lock the front door until the computers could begin running again.

Five conferences were being held at the Adria Hotel and Conference Center on Northern Boulevard when the lights went out last Thursday, but the emergency lights proved adequate for business to continue through the two-hour outage.

While the hotel’s front desk reported no complaints, the stagnant air had warmed beyond the threshold of comfort by the time the air conditioner began humming again shortly after noon.

For those who were not at work during the day — and the thousands of state employees who were sent home at 2 p.m. to conserve power — the hot weather turned into an excuse for recreation and relaxation.

Attendance at the Astoria Pool soared along with the mercury, hitting 4,366 on Aug. 8 compared to 3,133 on the same day last year.

“People just want to get out of the heat some, and this is just a refreshing place to go,” said Michael Agnello, a Parks and Recreation Department manager who was working at the pool Thursday.

“To tell you the truth, I wish I could go in,” he continued, gesturing to the black jeans and white socks that made him stand out among the bare legs and bathing suits.

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.