After four days of a steamy heat wave swamped much of the Eastern Seaboard, the likelihood of just 80- or 90-degree weather was sounding downright delectable.
The National Weather Service was forecasting less brutal heat throughout the region Thursday, though it still was likely to be uncomfortably humid. The temperature was expected to dip overnight in New York but remain about 80 degrees in urban areas.
Heat waves are more oppressive in big cities because concrete, asphalt and steel absorb more solar energy during the day and are slow to release it after the sun goes down, offering people little relief at night.
On Wednesday, with triple-digit highs recorded from New York to Charlotte, N.C., roads buckled, nursing homes with air-conditioning problems were forced to evacuate and utilities called for conservation as the electrical grid neared its capacity.
In the nation's biggest city, Wall Streeters sweltered in business suits on subway platforms and senior citizens schlepped to grocery stores on streets that seemed like frying pans. The mercury hit 100 degrees by 3 p.m. Wednesday after topping out at 103 on Tuesday.
Security guard Jeffrey Boone said he has a window fan but it's not up to the task of 80-degree nights or triple-digit days.
"When I get up, I feel like I could shower all the time," Boone said Wednesday as he walked to a gym from his un-air-conditioned Manhattan apartment.
Megan Dack coolly checked her cell phone as she waited on a roasting, elevated subway platform in Brooklyn while wearing a black dress and black opaque tights. Her retail job bars bare legs, she said.
"It's not so bad for, like, 10 minutes," said Dack, who recently moved to the city from Cocoa Beach, Fla. "I'm used to the heat."
For those who aren't, city officials have designated libraries, senior citizen centers and other places as public cooling centers.
Plenty of people across the East were looking for oases of their own.
Sue Robels' plan? "My apartment isn't air-conditioned, so it's going to be museums, movies, Starbucks — anywhere else but at home today," Robels said as she headed to Philadelphia's Franklin Institute, a science museum.
And even some who escaped to the beach found themselves escaping from it, too.
Sharon Delano, of Lancaster County, Va., spent Wednesday morning in the Carolina Beach, N.C., arcade. Cool dips in the ocean were going only so far, said her mother, Carol Davis: "With that breeze blowing, you don't know how bad you're getting burned."
Throughout the region, there were reminders of the perils the hot spell poses. Deaths blamed on it included a 92-year-old Philadelphia woman, a Baltimore resident who was found at home where the indoor temperature was over 90 and a homeless woman discovered lying next to a car in suburban Detroit.
The U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., said four midshipmen who had just completed an obstacle course Wednesday needed medical attention for possible heat exhaustion.
Maryland state health officials moved all 150 residents out of a Baltimore nursing home whose operators didn't report a broken air conditioner. The state learned of the home's troubles when a resident called 911.
A radio station distributed free bottled water to day laborers on New York's Long Island, while social workers in Pittsburgh did the same for the homeless there.
Transportation officials cut the speed of commuter trains in suburban Washington and New York for fear that the heat had warped the tracks. Some New Jersey train service was canceled.
A 100-degree reading at noon in Trenton, N.J., broke a 17-year-old record. Philadelphia hit 100 for the second straight day, breaking a record of 98 degrees set in 1999. Newark, N.J., hit triple digits for the fourth straight day, something that hasn't happened since 1993. Raleigh, N.C., reached 101 degrees Wednesday, surpassing the previous record of 100 in 1977.
Forecasters were predicting modest relief in the coming days. The National Weather Service expected temperatures in New York to approach 90, with humidity making it feel hotter, through at least July 14.
Still, Boone, the security guard, was taking the sultry summer in stride.
"Time goes so fast," he said. "Next thing you know, it's September."
Associated Press writers JoAnn Loviglio in Philadelphia, Kevin Maurer in Carolina Beach, N.C., and Frank Eltman in Farmingville, N.Y., contributed to this report.