COLD front moving its way east could provide much-anticipated break from blistering heat

Bev Hanover gladly obliged when New York's governor lifted admission fees at state parks with beaches to offer residents relief from the roasting heat. She got to the beach early with lunch and a book

Friday, August 10th 2001, 12:00 am

By: News On 6

Bev Hanover gladly obliged when New York's governor lifted admission fees at state parks with beaches to offer residents relief from the roasting heat. She got to the beach early with lunch and a book and didn't plan on leaving until it closed.

``I'm staying in the water until I shrivel,'' said Hanover, who was swimming at Buttermilk Falls State Park near Ithaca, where the temperature soared to 99 degrees. With the humidity, it felt like 119 degrees.

Hanover was like many others in the Northeast on Thursday who did anything they could to elude the sizzling temperatures that have overwhelmed the eastern half of the nation this week.

A cold front that continued moving its way east promised to provide a respite Friday from the heat wave, which has contributed to more than a dozen deaths.

``It's just overwhelming,'' said Joe Bengardino, stopping to spray himself with water as he grappled with the unenviable task of pouring concrete in Brigantine, N.J. ``It takes over everything. You get less production. You can't work as fast. It just really takes it out of you.''

Temperature records were broken across the region Thursday. The thermometer climbed to 105 degrees in Newark, N.J., surpassing the previous August record of 103 set in 1946. In New York's Central Park, it was a record-breaking 103.

Hartford, Conn., and Philadelphia broke records at 101, while Raleigh, N.C., broiled at an all-time high of 100 degrees.

In Duluth, Minn., a town along Lake Superior that is known for its chilly temps, five people have died this week because of the heat. The victims all lived in apartments or rooms with poor ventilation. Temperatures were in the low 90s when they were found.

``It's terrible,'' said county medical examiner Dr. Thomas Uncini, ``In my time, there's never been anything like this.''

In Baltimore, where the mercury climbed to 101 on Thursday, the city's health commissioner said heat was a factor in the deaths of at least three people this week.

Since Tuesday, the heat has been blamed for five deaths of elderly Pennsylvanians, a spokesman for the Department of Public Health said. In Rowley, Mass., a 3-year-old girl collapsed and died Wednesday after her body temperature reached nearly 109 degrees as she played outside.

New Jersey reported two deaths believed to be heat-related: a 33-year-old man was found unconscious in his apartment Wednesday and a child who had an asthma attack Thursday.

State government offices in New Jersey were closed Thursday to save energy. Rutgers University campuses in New Brunswick, Newark and Camden also shut down early.

About 400 commuters in Connecticut were stranded for more than an hour after the heat and aging overhead wires stalled a train. A locomotive was used to push the cars into the station.

National Weather Service meteorologist Anthony Gigi said the cold front was expected to bring scattered showers and thunderstorms Friday night into Saturday in parts of the Northeast.

``Hopefully this will be the one and only prolonged hot spell for this summer,'' he said. ``This is too hot.''

Relief from the heat started making its way to areas in New York on Thursday evening, but it came in the form of severe thunderstorms that left considerable damage.

Homeowners in western New York who have suffered from the heat and storms have another worry on their hands _ bats. Officials say the heat has been so intense in attics that bats roosting in them have been forced to go elsewhere, invading people's homes.

``It's not uncommon for us to hear about a bat flying around in the house during the day anymore,'' said Brett McDonnell of Critter Control of western New York. ``They just want to seek some relief from the extreme heat.''

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