As Carlos Leger and his co-workers carted their deluxe new air conditioner across a steamy parking lot, they could almost feel the cooling blast it would soon deliver.
They had spent all morning on the road, braving the blistering heat in search of the best price. Finally, bargain or not, they had their climate-controlled reward, 24,000 BTUs of merciful relief.
“Too hot, man, way too hot,” said Leger, 39, who works at a produce shop in East Boston. “Couldn’t take it anymore.”
As oppressive heat and humidity baked the region, many people took respite in the air-
conditioned indoors Tuesday, paying grateful homage to the cooling technology on its 110th anniversary. Other hardy hold-outs had finally reached their breaking point and rushed out to stores to find relief from near-record temperatures.
“This one put them over the edge,” said Peter Pappas, owner of Harrison Refrigeration in Roslindale. “I don’t know how they’ve lasted this long.”
At Yale Appliance in Dorchester, $79 window units were going fast. Some people were buying replacements for air conditioners that chose precisely the wrong time to fail, while others who had gotten by on fans but were now conceding defeat to the elements.
“We’re selling about 30 a day,” said salesman Bill Hanley. “Cash and carry.”
At Chromasonic TV in Needham, several people bought window units, desperate to cool houses that were nearly as hot as outside. Dave Oberman, a manager, was happy to oblige, though he could not help but wonder what took them so long.
“I couldn’t do it,” he said. “But I guess today was their breaking point.”
The temperature at Logan Airport reached 97 degrees, just one degree shy of the record for the day. The National Weather Service issued a heat advisory and urged people to stay hydrated and out of the sun.
People seemed to take heed, as electricity use climbed well above normal. NStar reported that usage peaked at 4,720 megawatts Tuesday, compared to 3,710 for an ordinary summer day. The highest reported level was 4,978 megawatts last July, the utility said.
At South Bay shopping center, customers let out audible sighs of relief when they entered stores, embracing the rush of cooler air. Many had come for just one reason, and they made a beeline for the air conditioners and power fans.
Diana Torres was tempted by the air conditioners, recalling how cool she was last summer when she had one. But then she recalled her electric bills, and decided that she just could not swing it.
“It’s just too much money,” she said with a disappointed look. Instead, she bought a tower fan for $45, taking comfort in its promise of lower energy bills.
“This will help a little,” she said. “Today was the day. I had to do something.”
Kerry Matlack, 18, came to Target from her family’s sweltering Back Bay home, where the central air conditioning had conked out at the worst time possible.
“That’s when ACs break, right?” she quipped. “Just perfect.”
Matlack bought a fan and said she hoped that would be enough until the repairman came.
Emily Loomis, 59, of South Boston, was also putting her faith in a fan and the box’s promise of “powerful cooling.” She needed a break. A couple of weeks ago, the air conditioning at her condo broke.
Then she found out that the cost of fixing it would be prohibitive. So here she was, in the scorching parking lot of a shopping center, air as stifling as the Deep South. “Everything’s delightful,” she sighed.
Loomis had thought about a window unit to see her through, but her windows are tall, and the glass pushes out. For now the fan would have to do.
Joanne Phillips, a retired school teacher, came to buy a fan for her apartment. She has air-conditioning in her bedroom and said she could not live without it.
“Oh, I’d be very unhappy,” said Phillips, 63, as she perused the fan selection. “People who don’t use air conditioners in this heat? I couldn’t explain that at all.”
Those with or without air conditioning took solace in the forecast, which calls for temperatures to drop into the 80s later in the week, with overnight lows in the low 60s.
“It’s going to feel so nice after the steamy weather we’ve had to deal with this week,” said forecaster Alan Dunham.
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