Tuesday, the sweltering heat officially becomes a heat wave.

A third straight day of temperatures expected to hit 90-plus degrees will send us searching for relief.

"It's hot but, when you think about it, people in Phoenix are laughing at us right now," said meteorologist John Cristantello of the National Weather Service in Upton, adding that there was a four-day heat wave last August and a six-day scorcher in July of 2008.

"They're not that unusual," he said.

Hazy conditions with highs in the mid 90s are expected throughout the day while several areas closer to New York City may see triple-digit and record-breaking temperatures.

The New York state department of environmental conservation has issued an air quality health advisory for Nassau and Suffolk between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. A heat advisory remains in effect from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. with a heat index values expected to be between 100 and 104 this afternoon.

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The relentless heat and dry weather sparked brushfires Monday, along with pleas by water authority officials to ease up on water use.

Scott Thebold, president of the Fire Chiefs' Council of Suffolk County, said firefighters battled "at least a dozen" brushfires in Suffolk Monday.

Sunday saw the mercury hit 98 degrees, while Monday topped out at 95 degrees, according to the National Weather Service in Upton

There has not been any significant rain at Long Island MacArthur Airport since June 22, officials said.

Monday, Long Islanders tried to beat the heat in a number of ways: Some flocked to sandy beaches or backyard pools, while others plunked down cash to create air-conditioned respites at home.

 

On the water

At state park beaches, spokesman George Gorman said many of the fields were filled by noon. Lifeguards were scheduled for an additional hour, to 8 p.m., at Jones Beach, Robert Moses, Sunken Meadow and Heckscher.

Some travelers seeking relief at the beach had a tough time getting there.

A brush fire on Ocean Parkway east of the Cedar Beach Marina stalled traffic. People pulled beach chairs from their cars and set up on the side of the Robert Moses Causeway waiting for the parkway to reopen.

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The fire, which Gil Hanse, director of emergency services for Babylon Town said was under control quickly, engulfed about 5 acres of brush.

At the Riverhead water park Splish Splash, general manager Mike Bengston said the park filled up quickly, so officials put an announcement on the company's phone message that the 96-acre park was full.

Nassau County will extend by one hour the closing times at its four major outdoor swimming pools beginning Tuesday.

With the one-hour extension, the pools at Cantiague and Christopher Morley parks will be open until 7 p.m. (from 10 a.m. at both pools); at Wantagh Park until 7:45 p.m. (opening at 11 a.m.); and at North Woodmere until 8 p.m. (opening at 11 a.m.).

 

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At the stores

Traci White entered the P.C. Richard & Son store in Elwood Monday, picked up a circular and headed straight for the air conditioners.

"I just got back from New Orleans. . . . It was hot there and it's going to be hotter here," said White, 48, of West Babylon.

She said that while she has a unit in her bedroom, her living room doesn't.

Air conditioner sales were brisk at the store Monday, said manager Mike Barletta, estimating that about 150 units were sold by midafternoon.

"After three days of heat, they come in here," Barletta said. "They try and avoid it. They think maybe one night without sleep, they can handle it."

 

Electricity usage

The Long Island Power Authority said its customers used an unusually high amount of energy, about 5,000 megawatts Monday, more than last year's peak of about 3,785 megawatts. While LIPA said it allows the system to tolerate over 6,000 megawatts to prevent usage-based blackouts, it acknowledged there may be pockets of outages due to distribution system stresses.

 

Staying safe

Suffolk County will open a cooling center at Islip Senior Citizen Center, 16 South Second Ave., in Brentwood from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. for the next three days, even though it didn't reach 105 degrees on the heat index, said County Executive Steve Levy.

"It's not just for senior citizens, but for everybody," Levy said. "People who never had air conditioning, or might have trouble with their system might need a reprieve."

Nassau officials said they would monitor the situation, and open emergency centers if necessary. They encouraged residents to go to public libraries and community centers if they find they need some relief from the heat.

Hospital personnel have not seen high numbers of admissions due to the heat, but are waiting to see what the hot weather brings, said Dr. Steven Walerstein, medical director at Nassau University Medical Center. He warned against spending too much time in the sun. If you are outside, "hydrate, hydrate, hydrate," he said, but not with alcoholic beverages. The sun can be deceiving. The body can be cool because it is in a pool, for instance, but the person still can become dehydrated, he said.