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TODAY   |  July 22, 2011

Heat wave sparks power grid worries

The oppressive heat wave gripping half of the U.S. is sparking concerns about health and whether power companies can keep up with demand as more people rely on air conditioners. NBC’s Anne Thompson reports from Brooklyn, N.Y.

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>>> the nation on high alert. we have nbc anne thompson at a power station in brooklyn.

>> good morning. there are concerns about this heat wave this morning. the first is can power companies across the eastern seaboard hand what is expected to be record demand as millions of americans seek relief in air can being today? and secondly, the very real health threats that are associated with this heat wave . it has already claimed more than two dozen lives. you can see it on people's faces. almost half the country's population sweltering in this heat wave .

>> you can't move without sweating.

>> it's really hot. it's ridiculous.

>> reporter: some stores get in air conditioning units , they go out the toor. tommy anthony bought one for his elderly aunt.

>> my aunt is 92 years oeld, and she had a little bit of a heart problem and her air conditioner broke today. so she needs one no matter what the cost, no matter what.

>> reporter: his aunt is one of 8 million new yorkers as temperatures hit 100 degrees and feel like 115. power company says it is ready.

>> we could handle five days in a row of 100 degrees.

>> reporter: pjm, the nation's largest independent grid operator managing electricity across 13 states in the mid atlantic and midwest, said it's seeing record demand. as temperatures go up, air quality goes down, adding to the health risks for young and old.

>> we are concerned about dehydration. it's key for people to stay hydrated, water is really enough for most.

>> reporter: yet some are feeling a different kind of heat.

>> i now pronounce you husband and wife.

>> reporter: these love birds blissfully oblivious to the heat index of 112 in the nation's capital.

>> i didn't think about the humidity. i married my best friend and the man of my dreams. i'm elated.

>> reporter: now, a couple of things to keep in mind. first of all, be a good neighbor and check on your elderly neighbors. make sure they have someplace cool to go. here in new york city they've opened some 500 cooling centers. secondly, we can't stress this enough. stay hydrated. drink plenty of water today. and remember your pets because they need water, too. matt and ann, back to you.

>>> mr. roker is across the street here. any relief in sight this weekend?

>> you know it's hot when matt lauer breaks out seersucker. that's all i have to say. when you look at the watches, warnings and advisories from texas to nebraska, into new england and air quality alert here in the northeast, red flag alert for bad air quality . look at these temperatures right now. the this is for afternoon high . 103 in philly. could set a record. 102 in new york city . a record as well possible, 98 in virginia beach . charlotte, 100. as you widen out the heat continues to spread in the west. 104 in topeka. 103 in dallas. you can see it's going to feel like 107 in indianapolis. it will feel like 111 in new york city . the good news is, the pattern is changing. it's going to take a little while. right now here's that big upper level ridge, but we're getting a little cooler air coming in. this, though, back in canada, this is where the real relief comes. as we move into the early part of next week, by tuesday, the heat breaks in the north east . seasonal in the mid atlantic states . unfortunately for our friends in the south and the southwest and gulf koes coast the heat goes on.

>> thank you very much. we'll get the rest of the frask forecast coming up. but let's turn to the idea of how dangerous the temperatures are. we're have dr. nancy snyderman with more tips. just remind us.

>> the heat wave like this, elderly and the very young people with breathing conditions. but right now, frankly, everyone is at risk. it's a reminder that as many people die of heat-related illnesses than all the natural disasters . number one thing, ann, is called heat stroke . that's where you're literally, your core body temperature goes high, up to 103 degrees. you stop sweating. your skin turns hot, red and dry. h is a medical emergency . you take the cooler and dump the ice on them.

>> it's he's exhaustion?

>> not quite as emergent but just as important. you have to break the temperature. and that is you start putting profu -- start sweating profusely. your skin turns pale and sweating and muscle cramps and exhausti exhaustion. another reason to get out of the heat.

>> before we get to that point you should probably taint take preventive action.

>> anne thompson mentioned getting hydrated, but don't wait until you're thirsty. hydrate before you go outside. drink lots of water. replacing the salt. this is one of the sports drinks , they have electrolytes in them. if you don't have air conditioning , especially true for the elderly, sometimes afraid to venture out, get to a cooling center . call someone. if you love to exercise, pace yourself. exercise in the morning. and please remember, if you are at risk or someone near you, avoid it. this is not something to be casual about.

>> nancy snyderman , thank you.