Feature

5 strange facts about the great Northeastern heat wave

As the Northeast suffers in the broiling heat, the locals are cooking tuna steaks on the sidewalk and cooling down with "bloodcicles." A round-up of coincidences, ironies, and oddities...

Americans in the Northeast are enduring one of the worst July heatwaves in a decade. Tuesday's temperatures topped 100 degrees from Massachusetts to Virginia, and demand for air conditioning pushed energy grids along the Eastern seaboard to the brink of failure. New Yorkers saw temperatures rise to 103 in Central Park, just three degrees below the city's all-time high, while in Washington D.C., the president tersely counseled sweltering reporters to "hydrate." With the heat expected to last through Thursday, it's dominating the conversation. Five of the strangest talking points: 

1. The hottest place in the country...New JerseyEat your heart out, Death Valley. The mercury hit 105 degrees yesterday in Newark, NJ, while Las Vegas enjoyed a relatively mild 98 degrees, and Tucson checked in at a mere 97.

2. Hot enough to fry a tuna steak, anywayWas it hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk?, asks Andy Newman in The New York Times. Not quite, as his experiment proved. After an hour in a frying pan on the cement, "the egg is not done, but we are." Sadly, eggs require a "sustained temperature of 158 degrees to cook." However, the "translucent red flesh" of a tuna steak cooked in just few minutes.

3. And hot enough to buckle train tracksCommuter trains in metropolitan areas suffered severe delays as welded train tracks bent under pressure due to the extremity of the heat. One commuter train packed with 1,500 passengers was stuck for almost half an hour without power in New Jersey.

4. Bloody popsicles for the big cats Zookeepers up and down the East Cost were forced to take creative measures to cool down their animal charges. In Franklin Park Zoo, Boston, the keepers had a special treat for Christopher the lion and Luther the tiger: giant "bloodsicles" made from five gallons of frozen blood. John Piazza, curator of mammals at Zoo New England called the "gory goodies" a "summertime treat." (Watch pandas suck on ice treats)

5. It helps to keep it in perspectiveThe Middle East and Asia are also seeing scorching temperatures — including a near world record 129 degrees in Pakistan earlier this year and 122 degrees on Tuesday in Kuwait. Meanwhile, in China, the heat is so intense that "a plague of locusts is ravaging grasslands and farmlands." It may sound like the apocalypse, says Stephen Kurczy in The Christian Science Monitor, but it's actually business as usual on planet Earth in 2010, "set to be one of the world's hottest years on record."

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