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NYC mayor calls for investigation after thousands left without power amid sweltering heat wave

By Amanda Schmidt, AccuWeather staff writer
By Adriana Navarro, AccuWeather staff writer
July 22, 2019, 2:08:35 PM EDT

Temperatures soared this weekend across a significant portion of the Northeast and mid-Atlantic, leading several places to experience the first official heat wave of the year. The combination of high temperatures, which climbed into the triple digits in some locations, and high humidity led to AccuWeather RealFeel® temperatures as high as 110 degrees Fahrenheit.

The extreme heat left vulnerable populations at risk when outdoors for extended period. Five heat-related deaths have been reported throughout the region in recent days, with the fifth fatality reported on Monday by Philadelphia officials. The Philadelphia Department of Health said that the death of a man in his 70s in west Philadelphia on Saturday was attributed to the heat, the Associated Press (AP) reports.

On Friday, about 250 people were evacuated from a northwest Philadelphia retirement community due to a partial power outage during the heat wave. Similarly in New Jersey, more than 100 residents were forced to evacuate a senior center after air conditioning failed.

At the tail-end of the brutal heat wave on Sunday night, areas of the Brooklyn borough of New York City lost power with more than 30,000 Con Edison power customers reportedly in the dark. As crews worked into Monday morning to restore power, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio held a news conference about the situation with the city’s electric grid.

De Blasio called for an investigation of the power outages on Sunday, expressing his criticism of the power company after the recent outages. At the time of the press conference on Monday morning, about 19,000 customers remained without power in the city with about 13,000 of them in Brooklyn.

“I am extremely disappointed with Con Ed. They've been giving us consistently inconsistent information over these last days,” the mayor said. “This was a situation we all saw coming and I don't have any good answers yet as to why this happened and why it was not prevented.”

Heat NYC 7-20-2019

People enjoy the day playing with water as the Empire State Building is seen from Williamsburg on Saturday, July 20, 2019 in Brooklyn, NY. Temperatures in the high 90s are forecast for Saturday and Sunday with a heat index well over 100. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)

The utility company has not publicly disclosed the cause behind the outage, but de Blasio said that the company decided to turn off power to thousands of customers so that it could make repairs and prevent a bigger outage. The decision was made as it was getting dark, creating safety and security issues. The city immediately deployed first responders to address this issue. More than 200 additional officers were deployed by the New York Police Department (NYPD).

"I want to commend the NYPD and also the residents of the neighborhood for the way they handled things. As of this moment, the information we have in these affected neighborhoods in Brooklyn, there were no arrests, no summonses, no reports of any problems at all," the mayor said on Monday.

De Blasio said the company has not provided a "clear answer" for the event and said that the private company is “not accountable to the public in a way a public agency would be.”

"It's very clear we have to question whether Con Ed as it's structured now can do the job going forward or whether we need to go to an entirely different approach," de Blasio said. "I'm calling for full investigation. And further that we examine whether we need a new entity to handle this situation going forward. Because at this point, I do not have faith in Con Edison."

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A little over a week ago, Con Edison customers experienced a power outage in Brooklyn with no clear explanation. De Blasio said they know there was a malfunctioning piece of equipment, but "no answer as to why, no answer as to how they're going to make sure it doesn't happen again."

"This one, too, we've got no answer as to why this happened. Given that they knew they were in the middle of the heat emergency and had every opportunity to prepare," de Blasio said. "I don't know if it's related, because we don't have any clear answers."

Meanwhile, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo tweeted that he deployed 200 state troopers, 100 generators and 50 light towers to assist with the power outage, as well as personnel and command vehicles from the state Office of Emergency management.

“We have been through this situation with Con Ed time and again, and they should have been better prepared — period,” Cuomo said in a statement. “This was not a natural disaster; there is no excuse for what has happened in Brooklyn.”

Many residents took to social media to express their outrage and frustration about the power outage in Brooklyn.

“It’s still hot and people have a right to be frustrated. We’re pushing Con Ed to get power back as fast as possible,” De Blasio tweeted on Sunday night.

Before the weekend began, New York City declared a heat emergency, as well as a Code Red Extreme Heat Alert.

NYC Heat 7-20-2019

The sun rises over New York City and next to the Empire State Building while people watch the dawn from Pier A on Saturday, July 20, 2019 in Hoboken, N.J. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)

“We are completely focused on getting customers back in service, and we regret the distress they are under," Con Edison said in a statement. "The actions we took were necessary to prevent longer outages to the impacted customers that would have occurred as a result of additional equipment damage."

The utility said it was disturbing dry ice at two Brooklyn locations to assist customers without power.

By Monday early afternoon, Con Edison reports that about 13,000 customers remain without power across the city, with 9,000 of these customers in Brooklyn.

While only a few record temperatures were broken or tied in New York City, the heat remained oppressive and many locations fell just a few degrees short of record-breaking. In downtown New York City, temperatures reached 95 F on Saturday and Sunday, according to AccuWeather Meteorologist Isaac Longley.

“Another big concern with this particular heat wave was the fact that low temperatures at night still remained very warm, especially in New York City where lows only managed to drop into the lower 80s. Due to the warm low temperatures, there was little relief from the heat at night,” Longley said.

Cities were among the hottest locations during the heat wave, largely due to heat island effect, where an urban area is significantly warmer than its surrounding rural areas due to human activities.


“Many cities in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic saw low temperatures in the upper 70s to lower 80s at night, which was caused by the heat island effect. Concrete and pavement prevent heat from being lost at night,” Longley said.

Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore were among the cities that experienced near-record warm low temperatures.

“Since there was not much of a cooldown at night in these cities, people without AC may have been at risk for heat-related illnesses due to a lack of a break from the heat,” Longley said.

The mayors of Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., declared heat emergencies prior to the weekend's expected heat.

On Sunday, several locations across the mid-Atlantic reached the 100-degree mark, with several more locations falling a degree short. The AccuWeather RealFeel® Temperature at the nearby airport in Nashua, New Hampshire, reached the century mark for the third consecutive day on Sunday.

Widespread triple-digit RealFeel temperatures created dangerous conditions for residents and visitors across the mid-Atlantic, including at all of the major cities along the I-95 corridor, before noon EDT on Sunday.

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Farther north, record temperatures were also broken. The "low" temperature in Boston on Sunday morning sat at 83 F. For comparison, the average high for the day is 82 F.

Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, reached 100 by 2 p.m. EDT on Sunday. This ended up being the high temperature for the day, falling short of breaking the record high of 101 F for July 21 set back in 1991.

In New Jersey, Atlantic City hit 100 F on Sunday, breaking a record from 1981 of 99 F.

Many records came close to beating the record high temperatures on Sunday, but ended up tying previous records instead. Bridgeport, Connecticut, tied a record high of 98 F, last set in 1991. Also, John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York hit 99 F, tying a record from 1991.

Following days of extreme heat, a break may be in sight. A cold front is slowly making its way through the Northeast on Monday, bringing a cooldown that will soon bring relief to many.

"However, we will still have to deal with strong to severe thunderstorms [Monday] afternoon, mainly along the I-95 corridor from New York City down toward Richmond, Virginia. The main concerns with these storms will be heavy downpours bringing the threat for flash flooding along with damaging wind gusts," Longley said.

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