Before the fever breaks this weekend, the extreme heat will put power grids across the country to the test.
Utility companies were deploying thousands of workers to be able to quickly respond to any outages during the weekend’s sweltering weather.
In New York City, Con Ed said it had more than 4,000 workers ready, Illinois’ ComEd had mobilized more than 750 and Detroit’s DTE Energy also had crews on standby to deal with problems from both demand and potential thunderstorm damage, vice president for distribution operations Ryan Stowe said.
ComEd, which serves Chicago, also said it was prepared to send out cooling buses and offer free water and charging stations should there be prolonged outages.
In an effort to limit the stress on the power supply, New York City’s mayor ordered government buildings and private office buildings to keep thermostats at 78 degrees, a restriction that lasts until just before midnight Sunday.
“Air conditioning saves lives. They do not need to be on full blast to be effective,” Dr. Oxiris Barbot, commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said in a statement.
The heat wave stretches from southwestern Kansas and parts of Oklahoma to the Carolinas and southern Maine, where Bangor is expected to see a high of 94 degrees Saturday.
More than 126 million were under excessive heat warnings and another 31 million were under heat advisories early Saturday, according to the National Weather Service.
Relief will come for some by Sunday, but much of the East Coast will have to sweat through weekend, forecasters say.
In Chicago, Friday hit 93 degrees, and Saturday is expected to be 94. Factor in humidity, and it’ll feel hotter than 100 degrees, said National Weather Service meteorologist Casey Sullivan of the Chicago office.
“It’s the humidity that’s making it worse,” Sullivan said.
It’ll be hot and oppressive, but it shouldn’t be enough to break any records, he said.
“We want people to stay out of the heat as much as possible,” Sullivan said.
Workers with My Block, My Hood, My City have been delivering fans, misting devices and cases of water to help people deal with the excessive heat, NBC Chicago reported.
“It’s amazing. My uncle really needs this — he’s on an oxygen tank,” said Tomia Hopkins, who was among those helped by the group. “It’s really hard, and it’s 100-degree weather right now,” she said.
A member said the organization had received more than 50 requests for water and fans a day, mostly from homes with seniors.
Saturday night or Sunday a cold front will move in and usher in mid-80 temps for the Chicago area.
But further east, they’ll be feeling the heat through Sunday.
Relief can’t come soon enough for some New Yorkers. In New York City, a network communication issue delayed many subway lines Friday, which exacerbated the scorching conditions.
“This kind of meltdown during a heat wave is UNACCEPTABLE,” Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted.
Passengers were left waiting on crowded and hot platforms. After about an hour-and-a-half, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said that the system was back and running, NBC New York reported.
“It’s ridiculous,” fumed one passenger to the station. “It’s 100 degrees out here. It’s hot, and it’s hot in the train station.”
An MTA official told the station that it did not appear that weather had anything to do with the disruption.
The temperatures in the nation’s largest city are expected to climb. The forecast calls for a high of 100 degrees on Saturday and 97 on Sunday before things cool down. With the humidity, it will feel even hotter.
The city has declared a heat emergency, and many outdoor activities — including Sunday’s New York City Triathlon and Saturday’s Coney Island Music Festival —were called off because of the heat.
Boston won’t be getting any relief either until after the weekend’s over. The city is expected to suffer through 100 degrees on Saturday and 103 on Sunday.
Sheryl Queen, owner of the Twist & Shake ice cream shop on Revere Beach north of Boston, said her shop’s ready with extra staff, but she’s not expecting a rush until after the sun goes down and things cool off some.
“Sometimes, it’s even too hot for ice cream, but we’re here,” she said.
The heat has already proved deadly. Former New York Giants offensive lineman and Super Bowl winner Mitch Petrus died of heat stroke in Arkansas on Thursday after working outside in temperatures that felt as hot as 103 degrees, officials said.
Rescue crews in South Haven, Michigan, rescued two people from the water, one of whom was caught in a rip current, on Friday as people packed beaches to escape high temperatures, South Haven Emergency Services said in a statement.
In Wisconsin’s capital of Madison, fires at two transmission stations knocked out power to thousands of people Friday on the hottest day of the year so far, but utility officials said that high heat had been ruled out and they were looking at mechanical issues, the Associated Press reported.
In Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where temperatures reached as high as 95 degrees on Friday, the heat caused lanes on Interstate 229 under an overpass to buckle, NBC affiliate KDLT reported.
An engineer for the South Dakota Department of Transportation tweeted that “High heat, humidity and moisture created ideal conditions for pavement blowups,” and posted a photo of the buckled highway.
The state highway patrol said Friday evening that the road had been repaired and was open.