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Forecasters: July hottest month in years

Bambino Ramirez cools himself down while washing cars

Bambino Ramirez cools himself down while washing cars at Bethpage Car Wash. (July 18, 2012) Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams, Jr.

Temperatures this month on Long Island have been 5 degrees higher than average, making July one of the hottest months in recent years so far, forecasters said.

Five days of 90 degree-plus temperatures have been recorded at Islip since July 1, and a pair of heat waves have made life miserable for outdoor workers and spiked demand for power and water.

The mercury hit 94 degrees at Long Island MacArthur Airport shortly before noon Wednesday.

"We're talking about a remarkable, warm and dry month," said Tim Morrin, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Upton.

But relief is in sight.

Downpours that cut the heat on Long Island Wednesday night are expected to continue off and on through Friday. That means a cool-down to more typical July daytime temperatures in the mid-80s.

Long Islanders coped with Wednesday's scorcher in different ways.

Chris Gomes, a construction worker at Walt Whitman mall in Huntington Station, said he took plenty of water breaks.

"I really just work through it," said Gomes, 28, of Westbury. "Today was brutal. It was hot and humid all day."

At Sweet Hills Riding Center in Melville, the horses got a day off and a bath to keep them cool, said Louise Privitera, the owner.

Demand for electricity on Long Island soared to 5,456 megawatts per hour at 3 p.m., short of the record of 5,915 megawatts set on July 22, 2011, said Michael Hervey, LIPA chief operating officer.

"Everybody has their air conditioner up full blast," he said.

About 22,000 of the utility's 1.1 million customers experienced scattered outages, but most occurred during severe storms that hit about 5:30 p.m. The utility maintains 600 megawatts of reserve energy at any given hour -- plenty to meet the demand, Hervey said.

Water consumption was high each of the past three days, when temperatures topped 90 degrees, but demand did not surpass the peak usage of three summers ago, said Dennis Kelleher, a spokesman for the Long Island Water Conference. That year, Long Islanders endured 10 straight days of scorching temperatures with no rain.

Nassau University Medical Center saw 10 percent to 15 percent more emergency-room patients than normal Wednesday, many complaining of heat-related dizziness and weakness, hospital spokeswoman Shelley Lotenberg said.

Hotter weather is forcing some longtime lobstermen, such as Robert Zickmund, of Mount Sinai, to look for other work. State officials blame rising temperatures and pollution in Long Island Sound for the precipitous decline of lobsters in those waters.

Regulators have decided to close the Sound for part of 2013 to lobster fishing for the first time to rebuild the population. Zickmund, meanwhile, said he's been working as a landscaper during the week and checking lobster pots on weekends.

For some, though, warmer temperatures are a blessing. Jason Damianos, chief winemaker of Pindar Vineyards in Jamesport, said 90-plus-degree days ripen grapes faster and keep disease to a minimum.

"The crop looks really good this year," he said.

With Sarah Tan

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