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Jul 6, 2010 6:38 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Heat wave puts stresses on utilities

Jul 6, 2010 6:38 PM

Temperatures soaring above 100 degrees early this week, coupled with high humidity levels, sent the region scrambling for the shade, the shuttered recesses of air-conditioned homes or, thanks to the Southampton Town Police Department, a “cooling center” set up on Tuesday at the Hampton Bays Senior Center.

The National Weather Service, which is based at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, issued a heat warning for Suffolk County on Tuesday afternoon, stating that it could feel as hot as 104 degrees on the East End. The advisory also stated that Suffolk County would experience hot and increasingly humid conditions through midweek. According to the National Weather Service forecast, rain is not expected until Thursday evening.

Long Island utility companies, meanwhile, dealt with the heat wave and the stress it put on their systems by requesting that customers cut back on their usage of water and electricity. Some Hampton Bays residents complained of low water levels over the weekend, said Hampton Bays Water District Superintendent Rob King, and there were scattered power outages across East Hampton and Southampton towns. Brookhaven Town experienced much higher rates of loss of electricity, according to Long Island Power Authority data.

The Hampton Bays cooling center, which was organized on Tuesday by Southampton Town Police Department Lieutenant Robert Iberger, the town’s emergency preparedness coordinator, might stay open as the week progresses if the weather calls for it. The center is for people who are especially sensitive to the heat, such as the very young and those with pre-existing respiratory problems. By Tuesday afternoon, the senior center was filled with people, Lt. Iberger said.

To deal with the strain of homeowners using extra water to water their lawns, the Suffolk County Water Authority on Monday issued a Stage 1 water alert asking East End residents to curb their water usage until the area gets rain. Mr. King has also asked Hampton Bays Water Authority customers to reduce their water use.

LIPA did not issue any official advisories or warnings, although customers in East Hampton Town experienced 15 outages as of 3 p.m. Tuesday. But there were hundreds of outages in western Suffolk and Nassau County, according to data on LIPA’s website. As of 3 p.m., about 700 people in Brookhaven did not have power.

LIPA spokeswoman Vanessa Baird-Streeter said that the outages were due to the additional consumption of energy by air conditioners.

“We might see some pockets of outages because of stress on the system, but we feel that we have an adequate power supply,” said Mark Gross, another LIPA spokesperson.

He recommended that customers use energy efficiently, which means not using major appliances between 2 and 8 p.m. and keeping air conditioning at a maximum of 78 degrees.

Heat isn’t the only problem plaguing the area. According to National Weather Service spokesman Sean Potter, there was also an air quality advisory issued by the State Department of Environmental Conservation for Suffolk County. The air quality advisory warns people of an increase in ground level ozone, a pollutant caused by an increase in volatile organic compounds, Mr. Potter said.

“It’s the kind of thing that has a negative impact on the respiratory system,” he said. “The levels of ground-level ozone make it difficult for people to breathe.”

Although the heat wave seemed unbearable to some, Southampton Hospital did not see a strong uptick in patients admitted for heatstroke, said hospital spokeswoman Marsha Kenny. “We were very busy, particularly Saturday,” she said. “It’s the busiest we’ve ever seen the ER department.” But the busy emergency room was due only to an increase in injuries caused by summer activities, such as swimming and sailing, she said.

Carl Schottenhamel, a member of the Hampton Bays Volunteer Ambulance, said that he has not seen a remarkable uptick in calls for heatstroke. “At least not yet,” he said on Tuesday afternoon at around 3 p.m.

Paddy South, a spokesman for the Suffolk County Water Authority, said that conserving water now will help the authority avoid more serious problems. If too many people use the water system at once, and something breaks down, the authority’s ability to provide water for fire protection and other essential services could be threatened, he explained.

Mr. South noted that the three aquifers serving Long Island are doing fine—it’s just that the peak in water usage could cause system failure, he explained. The fear of a dusty, dry brown lawn is pushing more people to water their lawns, he added.

Mr. King said on Tuesday he asked people to reduce the water usage as much as possible. “We have to make sure the hydrants have full pressure,” he said.

Mr. King said that the district’s pumps are running well, but that the system was under some duress this weekend because of the July 4 crowds.

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It would be nice with residents being asked to conserve water if the hose that's been on at three mile harbor marina(street side at one of the boats) for TWO DAYS would be turned off!
By Sag Native (54), East Hampton on Jul 6, 10 4:24 PM
1 member liked this comment
By johnnyhampton (82), Southampton on Jul 6, 10 6:05 PM
yea thats a boater watering his lawn in front of his boat.by the way thats a town dock.turn him in to code enforcement if you can get them out of the air conditioning
By asurest (117), easthampton on Jul 6, 10 7:02 PM
It's not as though they don't sit there everyday at some point.
By Sag Native (54), East Hampton on Jul 6, 10 7:51 PM
I think its a Searay or Bayliner infront of it. Then they're just trying to make the grass infront of the boat match the grass on the bottom of the boat.
By omghi (20), EH on Jul 6, 10 7:52 PM
Nothing like an estate's worth of manicured lawn, and non-native landscaping to squander a precious resource.

People still kill for fresh water in other parts of the world, and it's so nice to see how easily it gets pi$$ed away in these parts...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jul 7, 10 2:02 PM