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Joining the crowds cooling off at the Magazine Pool yesterday, Abdulah Gheraissa of Cambridge leapt from the side of the pool into his father’s waiting arms.
Joining the crowds cooling off at the Magazine Pool yesterday, Abdulah Gheraissa of Cambridge leapt from the side of the pool into his father’s waiting arms. (Globe Staff Photo / Dina Rudick)

Summer swelter comes close to setting a record

Hottest day since August 2002

All over Boston yesterday, residents and tourists sweated out what meteorologists had predicted would be a record-breaking, ''sticky and oppressive" day throughout southern New England.

By 9 a.m. yesterday, temperatures in Boston had already hit 77 degrees. The city reached a high of 95 degrees around 4 p.m., said Eleanor Vallier-Talbot, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service. The record for June 25 is 97 degrees, set in 1943. But yesterday's high was the hottest Boston has been since Aug. 18, 2002, when the mercury also reached 95.

The US Environmental Protection Agency predicted unhealthy air quality yesterday due to smog and moderate levels of fine particles, which can cause breathing problems and aggravate asthma. Area hospitals, however, reported no heat-related medical emergencies and real-time ozone data showed that the air quality was moderate in Massachusetts.

Nora Williams and her husband, Tim Wilson, tried beating the heat by ducking into Loews cinemas at Boston Common to catch the 11:10 a.m. showing of ''Land of the Dead" -- and cool off for two hours in the air-conditioned theater.

''What's a good summer 100-degree weekend without a zombie movie?" said Williams. ''It's about surviving the heat, baby."

At the Colonnade Hotel in the Back Bay, nearly every lounge chair was filled at the rooftop pool. More than 30 people who were not staying at the hotel had paid the $40 admission for a reprieve from the heat. The hotel stopped letting in the public at 11 a.m. because it was so crowded.

Anne Cody, an investment associate for a securities firm, preferred to catch her rays for free, opting for a wooden dock along the Charles River. She sprayed Sun-In in her blond hair and tanning oil on every body part not covered by her turquoise bikini; she dabbed just a tiny bit of SPF 15 sunscreen on her nose.

''Tanner, blonder, thinner, whiter teeth," said Cody, 25, who planned to stay out for six hours and read a David Sedaris book. ''I'm a professional tanner. I'm like skin cancer squared."

Nor did the heat deter Mark Foley, a 40-year-old securities broker, from running 5 miles. He said he is trying to drop 15 pounds from his 197-pound frame and qualify for the Boston Marathon.

''I love running in hot weather," said Foley, sweat dripping off his shirtless body. ''Living in New England, nine months of the year it's chilly. Plus, you get a tan."

Ben Anderson, 3, also reveled in the weather yesterday morning by jumping through the sprinklers at the Frog Pond playground wearing just his Spiderman pull-up diapers. His mother, Tonia Anderson, said she originally had wanted to bring the boy to the nearby wading pool, but learned that it is not scheduled to open until Friday.

Shoppers and the lunch crowd along Newbury Street snapped up $5 smoothies at Emack & Bolio's.

''I'm surprised to see so many people out. It's so hot!" said manager Brenda Phillips, who had received a call from the mayor's office at her Chestnut Hill home Friday, advising senior citizens to stay indoors yesterday and asking neighbors to check on them. ''I don't like to think of myself as a senior, but I guess I am," said Phillips, who gave her age as ''way over 60."

Artists selling their paintings along Newbury Street also sold iced bottled water for $1.

''The weather has been my friend with this," said Deidre Kennedy. ''On a day like today, Newbury Street is like a mall at Christmas time."

Air conditioners and fans were hot commodities at Home Depot in Quincy. By yesterday morning, customers had picked through the items, but Tricia Hamilton of Quincy grabbed a unit for her parents before the shelves were picked bare.

''I just wanted them to be comfortable," said Hamilton, as she dragged the air conditioner on an orange carrier. ''They had never wanted one before, but after it being 100 degrees today, I thought that they should get used to it."

Sara Djerf, 13, searched the South Shore Plaza for the perfect swimsuit. ''I love summer," Djerf said as she eyed a black two-piece in H&M.

Hundreds of people headed to Wollaston Beach yesterday to tan, walk along the water's edge, sip beer, and collect seashells.

''Today, it actually feels like summer," said Kristin Galofaro, 24. ''As long as it's not unbearably humid and there's a nice breeze, it doesn't matter how hot it is."

The National Weather Service predicts a high of around 89 degrees today in Boston, with possible showers and thunderstorms north and west of the city. The upcoming week will mostly bring temperatures in the 80s.

''It's typical summer," Vallier-Talbot said.

Tracy Jan can be reached at tjan@globe.com. Globe correspondent Russell Nichols contributed to this report.

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