THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Boston matches its highest-ever temperature

Hub swelters in heat wave

Paul Boudreau of the Boston Sparks Association cooled down a firefighter at a three-alarm fire on Columbus Avenue yesterday. Paul Boudreau of the Boston Sparks Association cooled down a firefighter at a three-alarm fire on Columbus Avenue yesterday. (Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff)
By Ben Wolford
Globe Correspondent / July 23, 2011

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Until yesterday, Boston’s thermometers had not seen 103 degrees on a July 22 since 1926, but the heat wave baking the East Coast reached the record-tying temperature at 3:52 p.m., testing New England’s power grid and punishing anyone who stepped outside.

Fainting and dehydration reports came in faster than on average summer days, but not as fast as some expected, and authorities are giving people credit for heeding safety advice.

Boston Emergency Medical Services fielded a surge of heat-related calls for a second day yesterday, but nothing serious, said Boston EMS spokeswoman Jennifer Mehigan.

With today’s temperatures expected to nearly match yesterday’s, however, she slipped in a precautionary “knock on wood.’’

“It hasn’t been bad here today for such a hot day,’’ said Ryan Donovan, a spokesman for Massachusetts General Hospital. “We had just under 10 cases of fainting, dehydration, or other heat-related issues. We’re thinking people took advice to stay indoors.’’

But many people work outdoors, some fighting fires.

Boston Deputy Fire Chief Michael Doherty called in three alarms to a fire in an Egleston Square duplex yesterday afternoon, in part because he feared that the high temperatures would overwhelm firefighters. About 75 firefighters worked in rotation, alternately fighting the fire and guzzling water.

Others were outside willingly.

In Framingham yesterday, 1,700 people walked about a dozen miles to Waltham in midday heat as part of a Susan G. Komen breast cancer fund-raiser.

“I’m taking it easy; I’m not going to lie to you,’’ said Maurine Turcotte, a 49-year-old breast cancer survivor from Amesbury who has undergone chemotherapy most Mondays since 2007.

“I’m not going to be on breast cancer treatment for four years and end up in the hospital because of a walk,’’ she said.

Organizers set up cooling centers, served extra water, and shortened the route in the afternoon as medical tents began filling up, Turcotte said.

Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Co. trains on the Framingham/Worcester line were experiencing heat-related delays of 10 to 15 minutes yesterday afternoon, according to the MBTA website. A commuter rail spokesman said delays of about 30 minutes on the Rockport line were also weather-related.

The last time Massachusetts hit 100 degrees was July 6, 2010, and the all-time record for Boston is 104 degrees, set July 4, 1911.

Because yesterday was the third straight day with temperatures more than 90 degrees, Massachusetts is officially in a heat wave.

So it was among the last things swimmers at three area beaches wanted to hear yesterday when health officials warned them they were swimming in bacteria three times acceptable levels.

The state Department of Conservation and Recreation posted advisories at King’s Beach in Lynn, one part of Nahant Beach, and at Revere Beach, warning that water exceeded safe levels of Enterococci, a group of bacterial species typically found in human and animal intestines and therefore in their feces, the Department of Public Health said.

“Reports from the field suggest that many folks have remained at the beach, but not as many are in the water, perhaps choosing to dip their toes instead of a full swim,’’ DCR spokeswoman S.J. Port said in an e-mail.

The DCR, the city of Boston, and many other municipalities extended pool hours or opened cooling centers. Boston extended the operation of cooling centers until tonight.

Meanwhile, New England is drawing near-record amounts of power, and ISO New England pushed closer to its generating capacity, but it stopped short of calling on all consumers to conserve electricity.

“Conditions are extremely tight,’’ Dominic Slowey, a spokesman for the regional energy operator, said yesterday afternoon. “We’re watching the system closely. At the moment, we’re OK, but as the heat wave continues, it puts stress on all of the equipment.’’

On a typical summer day, he said, consumption is around 22,000 or 23,000 megawatts, with each megawatt being generally enough to power 1,000 homes. The system tops out around 32,000 megawatts if all power plants are online and transmitters are running smoothly, Slowey said.

He said ISO New England dipped into energy reserves yesterday and paid large-scale power users to cut back on consumption as plants pumped out the second-highest megawatt count ever: 27,780 megawatts.

The worst of the heat is expected to ease today with temperatures in the upper 90s, said Alan Dunham, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Taunton.

And tomorrow, the heat wave is expected to end.

Expect “highs in the refreshing lower 80s, or it might even be better, with highs in the upper 70s,’’ Dunham said.

And after a long dry week, Monday night has a 50 percent chance of showers, which could continue into Tuesday morning, Dunham said.

Travis Andersen of the Globe staff and Globe correspondents Amanda Cedrone and Jaime Lutz contributed to this report. Ben Wolford can be reached at bwolford@globe.com.