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Long Island broils on day 4 of heat wave

Bathers take advantage of the hot weather by

Bathers take advantage of the hot weather by lounging at Jones Beach. (July 3, 2010) Credit: John Dunn

It's still a heat wave, but a little less brutal.

On Wednesday, the fourth day of sizzling weather, the temperature finally started to break a bit and forecasters said it should remain on a downward trend Wednesday night and Thursday, though it will hardly be time to break out the sweaters.

After hitting a high of 101 degrees Tuesday, temperatures hit a peak today of 96 degrees at 12:32 p.m. at Long Island MacArthur Airport, and then started to drop. It was down to 89 degrees by 2 p.m., said Matt Scalora, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service at Upton.

Wednesday's high of 96 broke the record for this day set in 1986 when it hit 95 degrees.

Scalora said Thursday should bring some slight relief, with the mercury rising to the upper 80s and lower 90s. Breezes blowing in from the Atlantic Ocean were helping to cool down the temperature slightly.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday should see about the same temperatures, but Friday night into Saturday morning, there is a chance of rain, he said.

LIPA, which broke a usage record Tuesday, said it did not expect to break it again Wednesday. By midafternoon Wednesday usage was at 5,493 megawatts, said LIPA spokeswoman Vanessa Baird-Streeter. Tuesday's high was 5,825 megawatts.

"Temperatures have come down," Baird-Streeter said. "We are probably in a good position to not break the record today."

She said the utility had sufficient energy to meet needs amid the heat wave, though it is asking people to remain conservative with their use - keeping air conditioners at 78, for instance, and running dishwashers and washing machines outside the peak electricity usage hours of 2 to 8 p.m.

Baird-Streeter said there were minimal outages throughout the day, with about 1,300 reported cases at 3 p.m.

In Manhattan, Wednesday's temperature peaked at 100 degrees in Central Park following Tuesday's record-setting 103 degrees there. The two days' temperatures marked the first time consecutive 100-degree days have been recorded in the city since July 8-10, 1993, the weather service said.

The hot weather on Long Island appeared to contribute to several brush fires, including one at the Edgewood Preserve in Brentwood. Flames billowed from a wooded area off Crooked Hill Road at around 6 a.m., according to news reports. When the temperature soared to 101 degrees Tuesday, it marked the first time in 11 years the metropolitan area has broken 100 degrees in July. It was also the second-hottest day ever since the weather service began recording temperatures at Islip in 1984.

The weather service issued a heat alert for Nassau and Suffolk from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. on Wednesday. There's also an air quality alert from 10 a.m. until 11 p.m. Wednesday.

About the only good news is that the rip current risk probabilities for the South Shore ocean beaches are low, according to the weather service. That covers Coney Island to Montauk.

But beachgoers beware: The ultraviolet index is very high.

Tuesday's 101 degrees at MacArthur Airport fell just 1 degree short of the record. That high actually was a tie for second place - it was also 101 degrees on July 21, 1991.

At Brookhaven National Laboratory, which has kept records since 1947, it reached 99.1 degrees Tuesday. The record at the lab was 100.5 degrees on July 21, 1991, and July 22, 1957.

The blanket of heat helped Long Island set a record for power usage and was the area's third straight day of broiling temperatures.

"It's been an impressive heat wave," said Richard Castro, a meteorologist at the weather service in Upton. "Seeing temperatures exceed 100 degrees on Long Island is not a common experience."

The heat is fueled by a high-pressure system just offshore that is generating southwest winds, which typically bring warmer weather, said the weather service's Joseph Pollina.

Weather conditions likely contributed to brush and timber fires Wednesday in Oyster Bay, Manorville and Shirley, which were later brought under control or put out. A fourth brush fire at the state Department of Environmental Conservation's Edgewood Preserve in Brentwood burned nearly 30 acres of the 813-acre preserve. No one was hurt.

Outages on Long Island on Tuesday peaked at 3,734 across Long Island - about 0.3 percent of LIPA's customers, largely because of heat-related trouble with equipment such as transformers and transmission lines, Baird-Streeter said. Power was returned to most customers after an hour to an hour and a half, she said.

With John Valenti

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