Yesterday's sultry weather at least had this going for it: It was 97 degrees, tying the 1999 record for hottest July 24th ever. And with the humidity, it was more like 102. National Weather Service meteorologist John Murray told the NY Times, "We certainly have the humidity of the tropics. That is what our atmosphere is like right now."

Murray also said that the average temperature has been 81 degrees this month—about 5 degrees higher than normal. Even tourists were finding it too hot to sightsee in Manhattan; some visitors from France told the Daily News, "It was simply too hot in the city, so we decided today to come to Coney Island. We came for the water and the breeze. It's nice." But one Harlem resident on the beach said, "I thought it'd be cooler down here. But the sun is beaming and it's muggy. I'm just gonna go home and put the AC on. It's expensive, but it's worth it."

As miserable at this month has been, it's better than the summer of 1896. The Post has details from the new book, "Hot Time in the Old Town," by historian Edward Kohn, which describes how 1,300 people died over 10 days in August with the heat index "routinely surpassing 120 degrees and nighttime temperatures never once dropping below 70."

Without air conditioning or even reliable deliveries of ice, tenements became ovenlike death traps. Almost the entire Lower East Side, around 250,000 people, scrambled up to their roofs to sleep. Those who failed to procure a spot on a sweltering roof were forced to sleep on fire escapes, windowsills and stoops. It was not uncommon to hear of people who rolled over in their sleep, falling to their death. One man even drowned after turning over -- his bed was a Hudson River pier at West 37th Street.

But the hellish heat itself was the main killer. City papers began reporting on a shortage of coffins. Overcrowded morgues had to lay bodies on the floor.

About 200 horses a day died of heatstroke, and their bodies littered the streets, adding to the overpowering stench of steaming excrement and rotting garbage.


Also in the book—then-Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt, who hosed down streets in hopes of making the heat more bearable.

There is a little better news ahead. According to WABC 7, "Sunday's highs were expected to reach into the low to mid 90s, with continued high humidity, but a cold front will pass through the region late in the day, with cooler temperatures and less humidity expected by Monday."