Intense NYC weather has authorities giving health warnings

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BROOKLYN (PIX11) -- July is statistically the hottest month of the year, so high temperatures aren't typically news.

However, weather conditions for the next few days are expected to be so intense. It compelled the heads of New York's emergency management office and health department to warn residents about the double threat of high temperatures and dangerous conditions in the surf, the same surf in which some people may choose to go and find relief from the heat.

The mercury rose to 93 degrees by mid afternoon on Wednesday in many parts of the metro area, after rising all day. The same pattern is expected Thursday, with the temperature possibly rising even higher. That was unwelcome news for Liz Bennett, an Upper West Sider who is three days past the due date for delivering her baby.

"I am a winter person," said Bennett , "so it's not ideal to be nine months pregnant in this weather." Many medical professionals say that pregnant women are among the people most strongly affected by hot weather, and if there's any upside for Bennett, it's that her pregnancy should end extremely soon. "I'm having contractions, yeah," she said.

She and her husband were out walking to help the contractions along, but the heat was overwhelming. They sought an immediate alternative.

"We're going to get in the cool," Bennett told PIX11 News. "Maybe see a movie."

Being in air conditioning was among the advice given by New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Commissioner Mary Travis Bassett, MD, MPH, and Director of the Office of Emergency Management, Joe Esposito, at an outdoor news conference at the hottest part of the day, 1:45 Wednesday afternoon.

"If you pay attention to your body, it gives you hints," said Esposito. "But if you don't pay attention, you're going to end in serious trouble," he said about the need to stay cool, hydrated and relaxed during the spell of hot weather that will last through Friday morning. He added, "it's getting kind of hot out here right now."

He was wearing a charcoal gray wool suit and tie, and went right back in to the air conditioned offices of Emergency Management Headquarters near the Brooklyn Bridge when the news conference was over.

Some of the emergency managers' recommendations PIX11 observed people throughout the Tri State already doing on Wednesday. Handymen Julius Bedminster and Rasheed Washington, for example, were out taking what they called an air break from their work in a windowless job site.

"It's about 90 degrees automatically [there] in the morning, at the beginning of the day," said Bedminster. Washington said that the two of them drank "a lot of Gatorade and water" in order to cope with the intense heat and humidity, to which Bedminster added, "even though you're not in a union, take your union breaks" of mid-morning and mid-afternoon pre-scheduled stops from work, in order to cool off and recharge.

"Use the heat as a chance to slow down," Health Commissioner Bassett emphasized.

What she and other health professionals advise against doing in the heat, PIX11 encountered a woman doing in a baking Sherman Square, a half-block pedestrian triangle where 71st Street, Amsterdam Avenue and Columbus Avenue all meet.

The woman, Charity Baker, was a good sport in talking about the black, long sleeve thermal top she wore layered over another shirt and another top. She also wore long stretch pants.

"I'm so hot," she said. "I was just thinking, 'I can't stand this.'"

She started peeling layers off, as the temperature kept rising. The situation was one reason emergency managers called their Wednesday afternoon news conference. The other is related to Hurricane Arthur, which is forecast to head out to sea in the North Atlantic, but is expected to affect beachgoers seeking heat relief.

OEM Director Esposito was strict in stating that people should never swim without a lifeguard present, but that it's all the more important to not go into the water from now until the weekend is through, unless lifeguards are standing watch.

The National Weather Service has warned of riptide currents along the coast in New Jersey and New York. The OEM director reminded beachgoers to stay close to shore, even if a lifeguard is on hand, in order to avoid the rip currents. They can sweep swimmers up to a mile out from shore.