Heat and humidity grip East Coast as Midwest gets reprieve

A child plays in a waterfall at Yards Park in Washington, DC, July 19, 2019, as an extreme heat wave hits the region. (AFP)
Updated 22 July 2019

Heat and humidity grip East Coast as Midwest gets reprieve

  • Utility companies DTE Energy and Consumers Energy said roughly 500,000 customers are still without power after thousands of power lines were downed in a storm that was worst to hit the region

BOSTON: The East Coast on Sunday sweated through another day of extreme heat and humidity as organizers in Boston canceled a benefit run, Delaware Civil War re-enactors got the day off and the New York Police Department implored residents to take it easy.
“Sunday has been canceled,” the NYPD jokingly tweeted . “Stay indoors, nothing to see here. Really, we got this.”
The central part of the country, meanwhile, enjoyed some relief as a cold front moved steadily southward and eastward across the country, bringing down the temperatures. But the cooler weather settling in Monday and Tuesday is also bringing severe storms packed with powerful winds and heavy rains that have already caused damage in the Midwest. The National Weather Service warns flash flooding might be possible in some areas.
From the Carolinas to Maine, daytime highs reached the upper 90s Sunday. Coupled with high humidity, temperatures felt as hot as 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43 degrees Celsius) in places.
“There’s no point being out,” Washington, D.C., bus driver Ramieka Darby remarked while taking a quick break amid temperatures of nearly 100 degrees (37.8 Celsius).
Nearby, Jack Ogten was among a steady stream of tourists milling around outside the White House. Undeterred by the stifling heat, the resident of the Netherlands joked he’d lost about 22 pounds (10 kilograms) from sweating after just one day of sightseeing.
In New York City, where all eyes were on the power grid even before the hot weather following a Manhattan blackout last weekend, electricity company Con Ed reported roughly 46,000 customers were without power as of 9 p.m. Sunday because of scattered outages, the vast majority in the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens.
Con Ed said it reduced voltage by 8% in those areas to maintain service as repairs are made and asked those customers to turn off non-essential appliances to conserve power.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted that the “accumulated heat and strain from the past few days has built up in the electrical equipment.”
The city also directed office buildings to set thermostats no lower than 78 degrees (26 degrees Celsius) through Sunday to reduce strain on its electrical grid. A day earlier, a commemoration of the 1969 moon landing planned for Times Square and an outdoor festival featuring soccer star Megan Rapinoe and musician John Legend were nixed due to the heat.
In Boston, Sunday’s heat prompted cancelation of the annual Jimmy Fund 5K cancer benefit race as well as a popular Sunday market in the city’s South End. City officials also once again opened up city pools free to residents as the temperature topped 90 degrees (32 degrees Celsius) for the third consecutive day.
And police in one Boston suburb posted a tongue-in-cheek request on their Facebook page. “Due to the extreme heat, we are asking anyone thinking of doing criminal activity to hold off until Monday,” Braintree police wrote Friday. “Conducting criminal activity, in this extreme heat is next level henchmen status, and also very dangerous.”
In Pennsylvania, nine firefighters were treated for heat exhaustion and six transported to a hospital for treatment while fighting a house fire in sweltering conditions Saturday. Several hundred people were also evacuated from a retirement community Saturday because of a power outage that may have been heat-related.
In New Hampshire, rescue crews helped a 29-year-old hiker late Saturday after he was overcome by the heat in the White Mountain National Forest.
In New Jersey, the Oceanic Bridge over the Navesink River was closed Saturday evening after it got stuck open. Monmouth County officials say heat caused expansion of the metal encasing the drawbridge, which is a popular route for residents and beachgoers.
The heat even prompted Delaware officials to close Fort Delaware State Park, which served as a Union prison camp during the Civil War. Temperatures were simply too high for costumed interpreters who wear wool garb to work safely this weekend, officials said.
The National Weather Service reported high temperatures for July 20 were recorded Saturday at its weather stations in Atlantic City, New Jersey, New York City, Westfield, Massachusetts, Manchester, New Hampshire, and Wallops Island, Virginia.
The heat relented early Sunday in the northern reaches of New England.
A Canadian cold front brought thunderstorms Saturday evening that dropped temperatures across northern Vermont and upstate New York. A heat advisory remained in effect for southern sections of Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine for much of the day, however.
And in many parts of the country, it’s not expected to get much better when the sun goes down: temperatures are expected to remain at or above the high 70s overnight (26 degrees Celsius).
Meanwhile, parts of the Midwest are dealing with the effects of damaging winds and rain that swooped in with the cold front that’s breaking up the heat wave.
In Milwaukee, utility crews restored power to more than 48,000 customers in the eastern part of the state. But around 56,000 customers were still without power Sunday after more than 700 wires, 50 power poles and over 600 trees or branches were taken down in thunderstorms, officials said.
In Michigan, power might not be restored for everyone until Tuesday.
Utility companies DTE Energy and Consumers Energy said roughly 500,000 customers are still without power after thousands of power lines were downed in a storm that was worst to hit the region since 2017.


China scrambles to contain ‘strengthening’ virus

Updated 26 January 2020

China scrambles to contain ‘strengthening’ virus

  • Coronavirus’ transmission ability getting stronger
  • China confirms 1,975 people infected, 56 dead

BEIJING/SHANGHAI: The ability of the new coronavirus to spread is strengthening and infections could continue to rise, China’s National Health Commission said on Sunday, with more than 2,000 people in China infected and 56 killed by the disease.
Health authorities around the world are racing to prevent a pandemic after a handful of cases of infection were reported outside China, including in Thailand, Australia, the United States and France.
The mayor of Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, said he expected another 1,000 new patients in the city, which was stepping up construction of special hospitals.
The newly identified coronavirus has created alarm because much about it is still unknown, such as how dangerous it is and how easily it spreads between people. It can cause pneumonia, which has been deadly in some cases.
China’s National Health Commission Minister Ma Xiaowei said the incubation period for the virus can range from one to 14 days, during which infection can occur, which was not the case with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
SARS was a coronavirus that originated in China and killed nearly 800 people globally in 2002 and 2003.
“According to recent clinical information, the virus’ ability to spread seems to be getting somewhat stronger,” Ma told reporters.
The Lunar New Year holiday, traditionally celebrated by hundreds of millions of Chinese traveling around the country and abroad to see family, began on Friday but has been severely disrupted by the outbreak.
Ma said China would intensify its containment efforts, which have so far included transportation and travel curbs and the cancelation of big events.
The country may extend the week-long Lunar New Year holiday, state broadcaster CCTV reported, citing a meeting hosted by Chinese premier Li Keqiang.
The virus, believed to have originated late last year in a seafood market in Wuhan that was illegally selling wildlife, has spread to cities including Beijing and Shanghai. Hong Kong has six confirmed cases.
The World Health Organization this week stopped short of calling the outbreak a global health emergency, but some health experts question whether China can contain the epidemic.
Chinese President Xi Jinping described the situation as “grave” on Saturday.
China confirmed 2,051 cases of infection as of 7 p.m. (1100 GMT) on Jan. 26, while the death toll from the virus remained at 56, state broadcaster CCTV reported.
Health officials in Orange County, California, reported that a third case had been registered in the United States in a traveler from Wuhan, who was in isolation and in good condition.
On Saturday, Canada declared a first “presumptive” confirmed case in a resident who had returned from Wuhan. Australia confirmed its first four cases.
No fatalities have been reported outside China.

WILDLIFE SALES BAN
On Sunday, China temporarily banned nationwide the sale of wildlife in markets, restaurants, and e-commerce platforms. Wild and often poached animals packed together in Chinese markets are blamed as incubators for viruses to evolve and jump the species barrier to humans.
Snakes, peacocks, crocodiles and other species can also be found for sale via Taobao, an e-commerce website run by Alibaba.
The New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society called on China to make the ban permanent.
The US State Department said it will relocate personnel at its Wuhan consulate to the United States, while Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said his government was working with China to arrange a charter flight for Japanese nationals to return from Wuhan.
The outbreak has prompted widening curbs on movements within China, with Wuhan, a city of 11 million, on virtual lockdown and transport links all-but severed except for emergency vehicles.

CANCELLATIONS AND MISTRUST
Health authorities in Beijing urged people not to shake hands but instead salute using a traditional cupped-hand gesture. The advice was sent in a text message that went out to mobile phone users in the city on Sunday morning.
Beijing also postponed the reopening of the city’s schools and universities after the Lunar New Year holiday, state radio reported. Hong Kong had already delayed the reopening of schools to Feb. 17.
China has called for transparency in managing the crisis, after a cover-up of the spread of the SARS virus eroded public trust, but officials in Wuhan have been criticized for their handling of the current outbreak.
“People in my hometown all suspect the real infected patients number given by authorities,” said Violet Li, who lives in the Wuhan district where the seafood market is located.
Illustrating the extend of disruption to life in China, overall passenger travel declined by nearly 29% on Saturday, the first day of the Lunar New Year, from a year earlier, with air passengers down nearly 42%, a transportation ministry official said.
Many cinemas across China were closed with major film premieres postponed.
Cruise operators including Royal Caribbean Cruises, and Costa Cruises said they had canceled a combined 12 cruises that had been scheduled to embark from Chinese ports before Feb. 2.
Hong Kong Disneyland and the city’s Ocean Park were closed on Sunday. Shanghai Disneyland, which expected 100,000 visitors daily through the holiday period, has already closed.
Airports around the world have stepped up screening of passengers from China, although some health officials and experts have questioned the effectiveness of these efforts.