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Heat wave takes toll on workers, power, roads

Justin Squires from Roadwork Construction, local 1298, uses

Justin Squires from Roadwork Construction, local 1298, uses a tamper during constuction of adding a water main on Main Street in Cutchogue. (July 18, 2013) Credit: Randee Daddona

Sweat poured down Dalton Castellano's face as he and a co-worker nailed boards to the roof of a new home in Long Beach. In the scorching heat, Castellano had to climb down often to splash himself with water from an outdoor spigot.

"It's rough having to work outside. I already drank a gallon of water," said Castellano, of New Hyde Park, as the noontime sun beat down on him Thursday.

As a weeklong heat wave continued to bake Long Island, people with jobs that require them to battle the elements -- from construction workers to caddies -- struggled to cope.

Thursday's high was 95 degrees in Islip, shy of the record for the day -- 98, set in 1999, the National Weather Service said. But coupled with rising humidity, the temperature felt like 105 by midafternoon.

Cool Canadian air is expected to move into the area, providing some relief on Sunday.

In the meantime, the hot spell continues to strain the region's power system. Peak power demand hit 5,633 megawatts at 2 p.m., topping the week's previous high of 5,482 megawatts, but still well below LIPA's 2011 record of just over 5,900 megawatts, officials said. The utility's total capacity is 6,300 megawatts.

This week, more than 20,000 LIPA customers have experienced an outage, most tied to weather-related demand.

On the roads, the state transportation department has reported five instances of buckling due to intense heat since July 1, including damage to the Long Island Expressway Thursday at Exit 67 in Yaphank, said Eileen Peters, a DOT spokeswoman.

Air quality alerts were also issued and emergency rooms reported more visits from people with conditions that made them prone to suffer from the heat.

At the Long Beach construction site, Ben Jackson, who founded his Baldwin construction company 32 years ago, set up fans and encouraged workers to stay in the shade as much as possible.

"After years of doing it, you get used to it," he said. "But this is excessive. I swear this is the hottest summer I've ever seen."

At Knox School Summer Adventures day camp in St. James, it wasn't just the kids who were having water fights.

Counselor Joseph Marinucci took part in the fun with his 7- to 9-year-old campers.

"My shirt's soaked right now, so it's cooling me off," he said.

Ali Edwards, another counselor, said she's enjoying working with the kids -- even if it means enduring a heat wave.

"I wouldn't trade this for anything," she said. "Plus, you get a nice tan."

At Huntington Country Club in Cold Spring Harbor, while many golfers chose to stay home, caddiemaster B.J. McCartan was still out on the course.

"It's a day you want to leave a little earlier," he said, but, "it's one of those things you get used to."

Besides drinking water, cooling off with towels soaked in ice water is key for workers out on the greens, he said.

For some, being outside would have actually been cooler.

At Wildfish Restaurant in Freeport, owner Brad Rubano left the kitchen door open to get some relief from the 500-degree oven he hovered over as he cooked mussels in white wine and garlic. There were no air conditioners, just exhaust fans barely moving the stifling air.

He said he stays cool by taking a few extra trips to the icebox, getting one lemon at a time instead of a whole basket.

"We have a famous saying," Colin McKaharay, the restaurant's chef, chimed in as he plated a hamburger. "If you can't handle the heat, get out of the kitchen."

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