A summer sizzle is washing over parts of the United States, the heat enveloping commuters who returned to work Tuesday morning after the long holiday weekend.
Temperatures could reach as high as 102 degreeson Tuesday, meteorologists said, and Wednesday was forecast to be the most humid day of the stretch. Weekend temperatures inched into at least the 90s from Maine to Texas and into the Southwest and Death Valley.
The mid-Atlantic is embarking on a string of intensely hot days, with temperatures in some places closing in on 100-plus degrees.
The National Weather Service issued heat advisories until 11 p.m. Wednesday for much of the Northeast, mid-Atlantic and parts of Michigan and Kentucky.
In downtown Philadelphia, temperatures were already approaching 90 degrees on Tuesday morning.
Robert McCarron, 44, was trying to keep his cool in a navy suit and tie as he walked from a downtown subway station to an office building four blocks away where he was due for a job interview.
"If I was going to a job, you'd better believe I wouldn't be wearing a suit," he said. "This is rough, and it's only going to get hotter."
Walkers and drivers all seemed to be moving a little more slowly in the heat, which combined high humidity with clear sunny skies that made sidewalks hot and asphalt sticky.
"Why am I drinking hot coffee this morning? Because I'm crazy," paralegal Sharon Loven, 35, said with a laugh on her way to work after a long beach weekend that was still too brief for her liking. "I should have stayed at the shore. That's the place to be when it's this hot."
But Davey Adams, 45, spent the weekend at his son's house at the New Jersey shore, where he said it was too hot even to sit at the beach, so they stayed inside.
Adams was headed back to his job Tuesday morning as a forklift driver at a package company warehouse in Philadelphia that has no air conditioning, just fans.
He said he planned to use "cold water and a washcloth" draped over his head to keep cool.
In the East, warm air is "sitting over the top of us, and it's not really going to budge much for the next day or two," Brian Korty, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Camp Springs, Md., said Monday. After that, he said, a system coming in off the Atlantic Ocean would bring in cooler temperatures.
Korty stressed that the danger from increasing temperatures was likely to grow.
"As the temperature and humidity both get higher, the stress it can put on the human body increases," he said, "and therefore the higher the temperature and higher the humidity, the greater the chance of people having problems."
And unlike on the long Independence Day weekend, when utilities had lower demand for power, the masses returning to work Tuesday amid the possible record-setting heat across the Northeast threatened to push utilities usage to record levels.
Power demand will approach the all-time usage records set during a brutal heat wave in 2006 before the recession curbed industrial demand, the power companies forecast.
"We are anticipating a potential record breaking day for electric usage," said John Miksad, senior vice president with Consolidated Edison Inc of New York.
"It's not a record we're hoping to break and we are encouraging conservation among all of our customers." Even though generation supplies were more than ample to meet forecast demand, heavy usage of some power plants and distribution lines could leave some stewing in the heat without power.
Con Ed, with more than 3.2 million customers, had about 1,500 homes and businesses without service earlier Tuesday as the temperature topped 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees C).
Miksad pointed out his company has about 93,000 miles (149,700 km) of underground cable that can be vulnerable to damage caused by heat trapped underground.
The state-owned New York Power Authority (NYPA), meanwhile, activated its demand response program, which pays large business and government customers, like Citibank and New York City, to cut back on energy usage during heat waves.
In that way, the power grid doesn't come under too much stress which can cause blackouts.
"(NYPA) has taken the steps necessary for ensuring that we're prepared to meet the challenges of the summer when the gap between demand for power and available generating supplies narrows the most, and generating and transmission facilities are most heavily utilized," NYPA President and CEO Richard Kessel said in a release.
"This is the time for everyone to be mindful of the sensible ways to cut back on power use to ensure the reliability of the electric power system, which is crucial to public health and safety, particularly during extremely hot weather," Kessel added.
Businesses and government offices can conserve energy by shutting nonessential lights and discretionary equipment such as extra elevators or escalators, turning off pumps for ornamental fountains, limiting the cooling of buildings, and by turning on emergency generators to offset some of the electricity they take from the power grid.
The weekend heat also was blamed for at least one death.
Temperatures that pushed into the mid-90s across much of Michigan claimed the life of a homeless woman found lying next to a car in a suburban Detroit parking lot Sunday afternoon. The Oakland County medical examiner's office told the Detroit Free Press newspaper the woman died of hyperthermia, an abnormally high body temperature.
In Indianapolis, which had a high of 90 degrees Sunday, police said they arrested a couple for endangering their 2-year-old daughter by taking her begging in the heat. The parents, who had $98 when arrested, were jailed Monday on child endangerment charges. The girl was treated for heat exposure.
Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Tim Murray was hospitalized Monday evening after marching in five parades in 90-degree heat over the weekend and feeling under the weather, his spokesman said. Murray was in good spirits but stayed overnight at the hospital for observation, spokesman Kyle Sullivan said.
The heat rising from the sidewalk on Independence Mall in Philadelphia on Monday had history teacher Joan Whalen eager to get home to San Antonio.
"We went to D.C., too, when it was record hot (last week). I'm tired of the heat," said Whalen, 65, as she exited the Liberty Bell Pavilion.
For others, though, there was no getting away from the heat.
In downtown Washington, Richard Willis, 52, was one of a few dozen homeless men in Franklin Square, a small park. He spent his day drinking water and staying in the shade.
"That's all you can do, really," said Willis, who wore jeans and a long-sleeve shirt and sat under a tall tree near a fountain. "I've been through many summers. I'm experienced."