East Coast Gets Relief From Heat

Mike Blackburn, left, and his son, Jim, enjoy their homemade pool in the back a pickup parked the driveway of Mike's home in Winchester, Va.
AP
As a heat wave blamed for at least 40 deaths lingered in the eastern United States, country music station WKHK in Richmond, Va., dusted off the Christmas carols.

And its listeners simply loved the idea of beating the heat by the power of suggestion.

"The phones just went bananas," program director Jim Tice said. "People really appreciated the cooling effect."

A cold front began bringing temperatures down early Thursday, but cooler weather seemed light years away Wednesday as the East Coast soared into the upper 90s for a fourth straight day.

The stubborn, dangerous heat wave sickened hundreds of people at the Boy Scout Jamboree in Virginia, forced the Navy to cancel battleship tours and kept workers in their air-conditioned offices.

At the Jamboree, about 300 people — most of them Boy Scouts — fell ill while waiting for President Bush to arrive for a speech. Mr. Bush eventually postponed his visit until Thursday because of thunderstorms.

Soldiers carried some on stretchers to the base hospital and others were airlifted out for treatment. Dozens were still being treated Wednesday night, Jamboree spokesman Gregg Shields said.

In cities across the East, delivery crews and street vendors were among the few people to stay out on the scorching streets.

"I drink tons and tons of water, I wear a wet towel around my neck when I drive and just deal with it," said UPS driver Hugh Kovacs, 43, after making a delivery to a convenience store in Northfield, N.J.

A strong cold front moved into the East on Wednesday evening, mercifully cooling temperatures.

In central Maryland, thunderstorms rumbled through the region, downing trees and cutting power to thousands of utility customers, even as it cooled a region suffering from days of oppressive heat and humidity.

Wednesday's unofficial high temperature at Baltimore's Inner Harbor was 99 degrees, but by 9 p.m., the temperature had dropped to 79.

That kind of relief was sorely needed.

Even on the coast, the Navy closed the USS Wisconsin, a battleship on display to the public in Norfolk, Va., when the temperature on the warship's deck hit 120 degrees.

The heat was blamed for at least 29 deaths in the Phoenix area; at least four in Missouri; two in New Jersey; two in Oklahoma; and one each in Kentucky, Ohio and Mississippi. At least 1,200 cattle died in Nebraska.

Water parks did a booming business as people sought to escaped the sizzling temperatures.

"The heat is definitely driving people to the water," said Emily Ball, manager at Wild River Country in North Little Rock, Ark.