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Boston hot, but short of record

Temperatures hit 98 degrees in Boston this afternoon, with the humidity pushing the heat index up near 110 as New England struggled through one of its hottest days in almost a decade.

New Bedford hit 99 degrees, and in Fitchburg and Providence, R.I., the mercury cracked triple digits.

The six New England state set a new single-day record for power usage, sucking up 28,021 megawatts of electricity, according to preliminary figures cited by Ken McDonnell, a spokesman for ISO New England, which manages the region’s power grid. Usage peaked at 2 p.m., McDonnell said, leveling off after hundreds of businesses across New England agreed to curb electricity consumption to ease the stress on the grid.

“As far as we know, the system held up very well,” McDonnell said.

Local outages were reported in Needham, Wellesley and other towns. Figures from NStar and National Grid were not immediately available.

Forecasters predicted that Thursday should be cooler, but not much.

“It’s going to be another miserable day temperature wise,” said Meteorologist Alan Dunham of the National Weather Service in Taunton. “We are going to push 90 again tomorrow with high humidity.”

An excessive heat warning remains in effect until 8 p.m. tonight, with a heat advisory from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursday.

Relief isn’t expected until early Thursday night, when a cold front is expected to cause thunderstorms during the evening commute, Dunham said.

Tonight should stay hot and tropical, with a few scattered rains storms that won’t “cool you off that much,” Dunham said.

The August 2 high temperature record for Boston of 102 degrees should stand, leaving the mark from 1975 intact.

Earlier this morning, two riders on a Red Line train in Boston had to be taken to New England Medical Center from South Station with heat exhaustion, said an official with Boston EMS. This afternoon, a 79-year-old man Salem drowned when he fell into a swimming pool.

Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, wearing a white shirt and a light green tie at a morning press conference, encouraged residents to "wear lightly colored clothes and stay out of the heat." He said he ordered the temperature in all city buildings to be turned up 2 degrees to conserve energy. At his own home, he said, his wife has become a stickler for power use, turning off televisions and lights in rooms that aren't being used.

The city has also been trying out a new automated calling system, putting out phone calls to 150,000 households to alert residents to stay out of the heat.

“Mayor Menino has declared a heat emergency and wants to make sure you stay safe and know where to turn for help and information,” the message says, according to a transcript provided by the Mayor’s Office. “Throughout our neighborhoods, cooling centers and city pools are open extended hours. Remember to stay out of the heat, drink plenty of water, and check on your elderly neighbors.”

The city is opening 20 swimming pools and 35 cooling centers to provide relief from the record-setting temperatures. City workers have also been handing out fliers in seven languages and knocking on doors every two hours in senior housing developments.

Residents are asked to turn off their air conditioners when they are not at home and to wait until evening to run dish washers and do laundry.

"Simple things like drawing the shades or the blinds can keep the house cooler," McDonnell said.

About 8,700 NStar customers in Somerville and Charlestown had a hot sleep last night when a single transformer broke down and knocked out power.

The transformer, on Alford Street in Charlestown, went down at about 3:30 a.m., stopping air conditioners and ceiling fans with temperatures hovering in the 80s.

NStar spokesperson Michael Durand said that crews restored power to 60 percent of those 8,700 customers after a little more than an hour. The remainder of customers had their electricity humming again by 7 a.m.

Mac Daniel of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.

Mac Daniel of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.

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