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Many cities opened cooling centers Thursday, as Greater Boston copes with temperatures in the upper 90s.
Alan Dunham, with the National Weather Service, said Thursday was Boston's hottest day of the year, with a heat index over 100 degrees, reaching dangerous levels.
“The young and the old and those with respiratory problems should be trying to find places with air conditioning,” Dunham recommended.
Public health officials warned people to drink plenty of fluids, avoid strenuous activity and check on elderly neighbors.
Teams from Boston's Elderly Commission spent Thursday afternoon handing out bottled water, cardboard fans, lists of heat-beating tips and the locations of the city's cooling centers to North End residents.
Commissioner Emily Shea says the office has lists of home-bound and disabled seniors that it contacts.
"We go back out and check on people we're worried about," Shea said. "If we get calls in the office about somebody, we'll go out and check on them, door-knock on these really hot days. We want to make sure everybody's staying hydrated."
Air quality is also a concern, as state health officials put an Orange Alert in place in parts of northern New England, indicating poor air quality. Officials said the worst areas will be north of Boston and southern New Hampshire and Maine.
"Any time you get into these very stagnant, very hot and humid air masses, air quality does become an issue," said National Weather Service meteorologist Matt Doody. "The biggest issue will be ozone."
EPA Administrator Curt Spalding said the heat contributes to elevated ozone levels that can cause serious breathing problems, aggravate asthma and other lung diseases.
The EPA also asked employers and residents to take steps to reduce electricity consumption, particularly during the day when power demands are highest. So far Thursday, the heat wave posed no challenges to power companies in the region.
Marcia Blomberg with ISO New England says the heat will not strain area power supply.
"In New England we have about 32,000 megawatts of resources, and [Friday] we're projecting a peak demand of about 27,350 megawatts," Blomberg said.
With reporting from the WBUR Newsroom and The Associated Press
This program aired on July 21, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.
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