Triple-digit temperatures could bring blackouts in New York City, DC and Chicago – USA TODAY

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An upcoming heat wave could lead to power outages in the central and eastern U.S., including the major metropolitan areas of New York City, Washington and Chicago, experts say.

As temperatures rise and more people turn to their air conditioners for relief from the heat, the demand for power can become overwhelming, according to Jay Apt, a professor and co-director of the Carnegie Mellon Electricity Industry Center. 

“There is always high demand in the summer – air conditioning is very power intensive and you will always have some failures of equipment,” Apt said.

A widespread blackout in New York City on Saturday left much of Manhattan without electricity. That power outage was not caused by heat, but by a transformer fire, according to New York fire officials. Con Edison estimates that about 73,000 people were without power during the blackout Saturday.

With temperatures forecast to reach 100 degrees in New York City by Saturday, according to the Weather Channel, a Con Edison spokesperson warned of additional blackouts, though on a smaller scale.

With heat and humidity as intense as predicted, Con Edison is prepared for “scattered outages” in Manhattan, and parts of Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx, spokesperson Allan Drury said Tuesday.

Manhattan is served exclusively by underground delivery systems that inevitably heat up as the ground warms, and those systems are put under further strain by increased demand for power, Drury said. 

The Washington area, which is served primarily by underground systems, is also expecting extreme heat and humidity this week. Christina Harper, a spokesperson for Pepco, said the city’s primary public utility company is preparing for the possibility of power outages, although they are not necessarily expecting them.

Temperatures in the D.C. metro area are expected to reach the high 90s this week, according to the Weather Channel, and could top 100 degrees on Saturday.

“We are ready,” Harper said. She encouraged all customers to download the Pepco app, which will allow them to easily report a power outage and access an interactive map of local outages.

Officials from ComEd in Chicago are also preparing for extreme temperatures – Friday is forecast to be the hottest, with a high of 96 degrees, according to the Weather Channel. 

“When you have extreme weather of any kind, it can put stress on any system and can cause outages,” said Terence Donnelly, the company’s president and chief operating officer. “We’re watching the pending hot weather moving into our system very closely, we have scheduled our emergency response center to open up and we have scheduled extra crews scheduled to work extra hours.”

Here are some ways to stay cool and prevent losing power, according to Con Edison, Pepco and ComEd:

  • Turn off your air conditioner before leaving home. If you can, use a timer to turn it back on about 30 minutes before you expect to return home.
  • Only use air conditioning in rooms that you are actively using. Block vents or turn off room-specific air conditioning units in unused rooms.
  • Keep your curtains and shades drawn. About 40% of unwanted heat comes in through windows.
  • Run appliances like ovens or washing machines in the early morning or late evening to reduce the amount of heat and moisture in your home.
  • Use fans if you can, but remember to leave your windows open for ventilation. Fans use as little as one-tenth the electricity of an air conditioner.
  • Unplug all appliances and light fixtures when you are not using them. A single light bulb can add heat to a room.

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