How to survive a New York Heatwave


With temperatures soaring, and electricity suppliers reducing voltages all over the state, to avoid blackouts from air conditioning power demands, this week in New York City has been one of melting proportions.

New York City Heatwave, c.1936

Personally, I have not tried to venture out too much today despite my intrigue. What does 41 degrees Celsius actually feel like? I did however have to quickly hop, skip and a-jump over the road to fetch a lunch/brownie and so I did, at least for a few moments, feel the impact of the overwhelming, sweltering wall of heat as I stepped out of my air conditioned building. Any long term presence on the streets of the UES might, I fear, result in some sort of self-destruction maybe my head would explode under the pressure? Who knows? I didn’t care to find out. However, as the day is now dwindling I am concerned about my commute home. Sun still blistering the streets of the Big Apple, I turned to the faithful internet to give me some peace of mind on this tropical Friday afternoon.

When entering “surviving a New York heatwave” into Google, I found the following informative site ( I have attempted to address each point in turn:

  • Do your best to stay out of the sun and avoid strenuous activity during the sun’s peak hours of 11AM and 4PM. Plan your workout or other physically demanding activities for the day’s coolest hours between 4AM and 7AM (indoor gyms make for an easy way of avoiding outdoor training BUT do mean that leaving the gymnasium with a bit of a sweat on can result in an embarrassing situation on the tram/cable car).
  • When you’re out in the sun, be sure to wear sunscreen of at least SPF 15 and a hat to protect your face and head (cowering under the beating sun’s glare while scurrying to the next air conditioned residence should do the trick?).
  • Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing that covers as much of your skin as possible (H&M don’t give you enough material for the (admittedly) little money you pay, which satisfies this point ever so nicely).
  • Drink plenty of water even if you don’t feel thirsty (not from the water fountains on this floor. No siree). Your body needs water to keep cool.
  • Avoid beverages with alcohol or caffeine (OK). They can cause dehydration.
  • Eat small, frequent meals (does ice cream count?). Avoid high-protein foods (does ice cream count?). Put that Atkins diet on hold until the temperature drops.
  • Head to a local swimming pool or beach to cool off. During heat emergencies, New York City pools and beaches are open late and often offer free or reduced admission (Right, but with my tennis tan lines am I ready to display my body to the trendy NYC crowd? I think not).
  • Find a cooling center. During heat emergencies, New York City opens air-conditioned cooling centers around the five boroughs where residents can find a break from the heat. Find the cooling center nearest you.
  • Cool down with cool baths or showers (I am having 2 and 3 cold showers a day. It is not enough but certainly takes the edge off). However, never take a shower immediately after becoming overheated. You may cool down too quickly and become nauseated or dizzy.
  • Never leave children or pets in a parked car during a heat wave (not applicable here).
  • Cool off at a fire hydrant, using only City-approved fire hydrant spray caps available free of charge at local firehouses. (Spending the afternoon with NY firemen sounds like a must! You don’t have to ask me twice!) Illegally opening a fire hydrant is wasteful and dangerous – one illegally opened hydrant wastes up to 1,000 gallons of water per minute.
  • Monitor signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. (Fingers crossed the 20 minute journey home does not become too much for my poor temperature controlling body) Contact 911 immediately if medical help is required.

In the Northeast of the US, a heatwave is defined as a period of time when temperatures exceed 90degF for 3 consecutive days. Therefore, I think hitting the 110degF mark today deserves a new special term all of its own. Something like “heat tsumani”? Give me a little time. I can think of something more punchy! In the meantime, the clock is about to strike 5pm and so my work here is done. Wish me luck?


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