His Liberty Deli and Grocery was just one of thousands of energy customers across the eastern United States that experienced scattered blackouts Wednesday as the oppressive heat and humidity prompted record-setting demand.
"This is the life," Ali said sarcastically. "Even the fan isn't working."
CBS News correspondent Trish Regan reports the number of 911 calls in New York on Wednesday was 20 percent higher than on a normal August day.
The region was in for another day of steamy weather Thursday. The heat wasn't expected to break until evening, when a cold front should force temperatures down into the 80s.
CBS News correspondent Bob Orr reports utility companies throughout the eastern half of the country set records for electricity demand, and some power grids simply couldn't keep up. Scattered outages emptied stifling apartments and closed businesses.
The National Weather Service again posted heat warnings from Massachusetts to South Carolina and in parts of Oklahoma. Since Sunday, authorities have confirmed heat played a role in at least 12 deaths and suspect it played a role in 7 more.
The same heat wave was blamed for as many as 164 deaths last week in California.
In Boston, autopsy results were pending on a pregnant woman who died Saturday after collapsing at a sweltering Red Sox game and suffering an apparent heart attack. A medical team was able to deliver her 4-pound baby at a hospital.
In Kentucky, an 18-month-old boy was found dead Wednesday inside a van about 60 miles northeast of Lexington. In Illinois, at least six heat-related deaths have been confirmed in Cook County since Sunday, and police believe that another six deaths in Chicago Wednesday could be heat-related. Four deaths were reported in Maryland, including three elderly victims who did not have air conditioning, officials said. In Oklahoma, authorities said a 92-year-old man found near his car Tuesday died of heat related-causes.
By late afternoon Wednesday, the temperature had risen to 101 at LaGuardia Airport, but it felt like 106. The mercury hit 99 at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, and Baltimore and Philadelphia each climbed into the upper 90s.
In Washington, tourists at the U.S. Capitol filled water bottles at drinking fountains and doused themselves. Others drenched their baseball caps before putting them on.
At the Library of Congress' daycare center, children stayed inside because it was deemed too hot to swim. Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs cut his players a break by ending afternoon practice early and then pushed back the 4 p.m. session to 7 p.m.
Even on Cape Cod, which is usually a haven during the steamiest summer weather, residents and tourists were buckling. Carla Sullivan, the dockmaster at Hyannis Marina, said she saw people dousing a dog with water after the animal collapsed from heat stroke.
"The water just pours off of you," said Sullivan. "This is Texas hot."
In Queens, N.Y., many residents found themselves in the dark again after recovering from a 10-day outage in late July. That included Ali, the grocer, who said he had to throw out $17,000 worth of produce last time.
Some Massachusetts residents were thrown into the dark Wednesday night because of thunderstorms, while in Stamford, Connecticut, Connecticut Light & Power cut electricity to some downtown businesses after two circuits failed.
In New York City, teams patrolled the streets, looking for homeless people and encouraging them to head to air-conditioned drop-in centers, carrying water and checking for dehydration. Officials in Washington, D.C. also were going door-to-door to get people to go to cooling centers, said Mark Brown, deputy director of the city's Emergency Management Agency.
As a precaution, the Dixie Chicks postponed an outdoor concert at Jones Beach Ampitheater on Long Island. In Fitchburg, Massachusetts, about 40 people attending a Warped Tour outdoor concert were taken to a hospital and treated for dehydration.
In Boston, animals at the Franklin Park Zoo were kept cool with sprinklers and frozen treats. The African wild dogs and lions got frozen blood; the primates received frozen fruit juice.
"It's a matter of taste, I guess," zoo president John Linehan said.
The broiling heat also took its toll on the sports world. The New England Patriots canceled "Patriots Experience," an American football-themed entertainment area for children that was supposed to run at the team's training camp Wednesday. Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs cut his players a break by pushing back their practice session to 7 p.m.
The heat wasn't terrible for everyone, however.
Bicycle messenger Gravett Dhuja tried to look at the bright side as he rested near a Capitol Hill office building: "It's been hot, but rain is a lot worse for us."
Costas Katemis, a fruit vendor outside Boston's South Station, was drenched in sweat as he handled brisk sales of peaches, plums and nectarines. But he didn't mind.
"I've been here when it's been 10 below zero, and the fruit actually freezes, so this weather is no problem," he said.