Hot Enough For You?

Kelly Wallace is a CBS News Correspondent based in New York.
For every story, we try to find one character who we hope will really connect with viewers. So when we were asked to do a piece for the "CBS Evening News with Katie Couric" on the blistering heat affecting much of the nation, we needed to find someone who really understood what it meant when the mercury neared the 100 degree mark. Our colleagues in Washington, D.C. found us that very person.

Marty Raynor is a deliveryman. On Monday, when it was 96 degrees in the nation's capital, a near record high for the city, he was out delivering water and lots of it. What's it been like, we asked. "I tell you, it ain't been pleasant but it's, you know, in order to make that money, I've got to keep rolling," Raynor said as he wiped sweat from his forehead.

For many of us, when the temperatures outside sizzle, we can stay inside in our air-conditioned homes or offices. I know that's what I try to do but what about people like Marty who have to work outside for a living and cannot escape the oppressive heat?

"I've been drinking plenty of water, that's the best thing for being out here in this kind of weather," he said. "You need to, you got to put some fluid in your body, without that, you might just dry up," he added with a laugh, not letting Mother Nature torch his sense of humor.

The heat, we learned, is serious business not just for people like Marty, but for elderly residents like Ellsworth Farrell, who told us he has no air conditioning where he's living right now. "All we have is fans, a fan is good but all it does is circulate the hot air, you know, but it's better than nothing," he said as he spent much of Monday at one of DC's cooling centers which were opened to give people some relief.

At the command center for New York City's main power company, Con Edison, which services nine million residents, all staffers -- from customer service rep to engineer – are working 12-hour shifts.

I asked Michael Clendenin, a company spokesman, what it's like to work at Con Edison when you know a heat wave is coming. "Well, we know we're not going home," Clendenin said with a laugh. "And we know to call our relatives and friends and say please pray for us."

On a more serious note, you can't interview a power company representative during a heat wave without asking about blackouts. Last year, tens of thousands of Con Edison's customers in the New York City borough of Queens were without power for more than a week.

"It's certainly likely that during a heat wave, we'll have scattered outages, we often do, we certainly don't think we'll have a repeat of a major outage that we had last year in northwest Queens," Clendenin said. "We think we've done enough equipment upgrades and infrastructure investment to avoid that type of scenario."

Of course, whenever we do a weather story, we find kids splashing around in pools, completely unfazed by the heat and even some adults who actually welcome the sizzling temperatures.

"I love the heat, bring it, 90, 95, I'm ready," a female jogger said in Chicago.

Well, she'll be happy because temperatures are still expected to be in the 90's Tuesday, but for those of us with a different take on the heat, we'll have to wait until Wednesday. That's when much of the Midwest and the East Coast should be in the high 80's as opposed to the high 90's. "Ah, what a relief," says this reporter. Until, of course, the next heat wave comes along and we know another one is coming. After all, summer is just three weeks old.