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Area Residents Swelter As Heat Wave Punishes N.C.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Get ready for another day of high temperatures. State officials and weather experts are warning North Carolinians to be cautious and trying to conserve energy.

Gov. Mike Easley ordered thermostats in most state buildings set a few degrees higher on Wednesday, and asked the state's residents to do the same as temperatures across North Carolina rose to the high 90s.

"That will save a huge amount of power and we won't run into any problems during this heat wave," Easley said.

People were urged to take the proper precautions to prevent heat-related illnesses Wednesday as temperatures in the area approached the 100-degree mark. However, Raleigh's high of 97 degrees didn't break the record high of 101.

Several recording sites reported 100-degree temperatures on Wednesday, including Kitty Hawk, Goldsboro and Erwin, said the National Weather Service.

No relief from the scorching heat was predicted until Friday evening, when an advancing front is predicted to bring showers and lower temperatures through the weekend.

"In addition to taking steps to save energy, it is also important to make sure all of our citizens take proper precautions to avoid unnecessary exposure to the extreme heat," Easley said. "Avoiding unnecessary outdoor activity, finding a cool place and drinking plenty of water are critical."

Neither of the state's two main electric utilities, Progress Energy Inc. and Duke Energy Corp., had yet experienced any problems from the several days of broiling temperatures, even as they experienced near-record demand for electricity. On Tuesday, Duke Energy started asking its customers to voluntarily conserve energy during late afternoon hours of peak demand.

"We have been able to get additional capacity from our neighbors, but in addition we would like to ask our customers to continue to conserve," said Duke Energy spokeswoman Tina Worley. "Everything is looking good today."

Worley said Duke didn't plan to ask its large industrial customers to volunteer for power interruptions on Wednesday, something they did ask for Tuesday.

Mike Hughes, spokesman for Progress Energy in Raleigh, said the utility could set a record for electricity demand later Wednesday afternoon, but didn't expect to have any trouble supplying power.

Advisories Posted For Heat, Air Quality

The NWS placed much of eastern North Carolina under an excessive heat warning, while central counties were under a heat advisory.

Heat advisories are issued when the combination of high temperatures and humidity pose serious risks of heat-related illnesses, from dehydration to heat stroke. Weather experts advise drinking plenty of water and staying inside an air-conditioned room.

Air quality officials issued a health notice for air pollution in the Triangle area for Thursday. Forecasters have predicted Code Orange conditions, which means that air quality in these areas is likely to be unhealthy for sensitive groups, including children who are active outside, people who work or exercise outdoors, and those with asthma, bronchitis, emphysema and other respiratory ailments.

Air quality officials are asking area residents to help reduce air pollution during the alert by limiting drives, avoiding idling for long periods of time, staying within speed limits, and using vehicles with higher fuel economies. They also urge residents to conserve electricity by setting thermostats at the highest comfortable temperature and turning off appliances that are not in use.

Heat-Related Illnesses Reported In Area

Eleven people had been treated for heat-related injury or illness from early Tuesday afternoon through noon Wednesday at WakeMed Hospital's three campuses in the Raleigh area, a spokeswoman said. Officials at Rex Hospital, UNC Hospitals and Duke University Medical Center said no one had been treated Wednesday for conditions directly related to the heat.

Two construction workers working on Highway 42 outside of Clayton were taken to Johnston County Memorial Hospital for evaluation of possible heat-related illnesses, said authorities. There is no word yet on their condition.

Between 1994 and 2003, there were on average 237 heat-related deaths per year in the U.S.

On the coast in Wilmington, where temperatures were in the mid-90s, New Hanover Regional Medical Center reported 13 people came to the emergency room with heat-related illnesses Monday and Tuesday. They were all treated and released, a spokeswoman said.

Dispatchers at the Mecklenburg Emergency Medical Services Agency received only three calls that sounded heat-related, said spokesman Eric Morrison.

While heat can aggravate existing medical conditions in patients, it had not been a busy day for the agency, he said.

"We've weathered the weather, so to speak, very well so far," Morrison said.

Triangle Residents Looks For Places To Escape Heat

The intense heat caused some people to seek relief in shopping malls. Julie Fleming of Raleigh brought her twin 7-month-old daughters to Raleigh's Crabtree Valley Mall. "We just thought we'd get out of the heat, out of the house," said Fleming, 30.

Fleming's aunt, Judy Dilley, said being forced to stay inside during the heat "really changes my attitude. The house seems dark."

Both women said they were trying to conserve energy at home. Dilley said her home air conditioner was broken so she was making do with a window unit and "about six fans."

Marty Schwartz, 56, of Raleigh, braved the heat to take his dog Kodi for some exercise at Raleigh's Millbrook Exchange Dog Park.

Schwartz said Kodi mostly stays in the air conditioning when the weather gets this hot. "But when we do take her out, it's tough to keep her cool," he said, as Kodi alternated between playing with other dogs and seeking relief in the shade.

While he was restricting his outdoor activity to only essential yard work, Schwartz said, the weather didn't seem abnormally hot. "It's the dog days in the Carolinas. It's tough, hot, humid," he said.

The heat is affecting at least one scheduled outdoor event. Due to excessive heat, Thursday night's concert featuring Soul Kitchen and the Bull City Horns at the American Tobacco Historic District has been canceled. It will be rescheduled at a later date.

Postal Workers Sweat Through Work After Air Conditioning Malfunction

Conditions were sweltering inside the Littleton post office on Wednesday, as postal workers worked to deliver mail despite a broken air conditioner.

All the outside doors were left open and bottled water was brought in, but conditions were still tough for employees. The customers marveled at how the postal workers endured the heat.

"The young lady that waited on me...was so cheerful," said customer Connie Pulley. "And I said, 'How do you do this?' She said, 'You have to do what you have to do,' and she was very pleasant."

United States Postal Service officials said that the post office will remain open for normal business hours, despite the air conditioning problems.

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