NEW YORK -- The East Coast broiled under an unforgiving sun Tuesday as record-toppling temperatures soared to 100 or higher in several cities, utility companies cranked out power to cool the sweating masses and the unlucky sought any oasis they could find.
The temperature hit 103 degrees in New York City and 102 in Philadelphia, breaking records for the day, both set in 1999. The temperature also soared past the century mark in Boston, Washington and Newark, N.J., and broke records in Providence, R.I., and Hartford, Conn.
After an extended Fourth of July weekend when temperatures inched into at least the 90s from Maine to Texas, The National Weather Service issued heat advisories until tonight for much of the Northeast and mid-Atlantic, including an excessive heat warning for the Philadelphia area.
With people cranking up their air conditioning, energy officials predicted near-record demand for power.
''It will be a challenge,'' said New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, although utilities and regional electrical system operators cited ample generation capacity and expected no major blackouts. Just a smattering of power failures were reported.
Even so, those without air conditioning were left to cope as they could. On the baking streets of the Bronx, 14-year-old Miguel Pena and 13-year-old Vincent Quiles walked their bicycles up a steep hill, white handkerchiefs around their heads to keep the sweat out of their eyes.
''Man, this stinks,'' Miguel said. ''We just got out of school and this is supposed to be when we have fun, but this is too much. We thought it would be cooler on the bike, but now we're going home. It's just too hot.''
Added Vincent: ''You can't breathe out here.''
The hot air is ''sitting over the top of us, and it's not really going to budge much for the next day or two,'' said Brian Korty, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Camp Springs, Md. After that, he said, a system coming in off the Atlantic Ocean would bring in cooler weather.
Authorities in some places Tuesday began calling the hot stretch a heat wave, a phenomenon defined by at least three consecutive days of temperatures of 90 or above. Newark handily beat that threshold Tuesday, hitting at least 100 for the third day in a row.
It was so hot that even machines had to slow down. Transportation officials cut the speed of commuter trains in suburban Washington when the tracks got too hot because extreme heat can cause welded rails to bend under pressure.
Workers at the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine, N.J., used tubs of ice cubes to help four sick or weak seals keep cool.