When Dolores Howarth’s air conditioner broke down several months ago, she was not too worried. She couldn’t afford to buy another one, but the weather was mild, and she doesn’t mind a little heat.
But as temperatures last week climbed steadily upward, Howarth, 75, who uses a wheelchair, felt increasingly lethargic in her hot apartment in Monsignor Powers, a small community housing complex in South Boston for the elderly and disabled.
She stayed in her apartment until an employee from the Boston Housing Authority knocked on her door Saturday morning, felt the stifling air, and immediately helped bring her downstairs.
“I’m glad I didn’t end up in the hospital,” said Howarth, sitting Saturday afternoon in an air-conditioned room off the main lobby.
Tropical air continued to blow upward from the Gulf of Mexico Saturday, making it the fourth consecutive day of over-90 degree weather — and the fourth day of the season’s second heat wave. The heat wave is expected to continue into Sunday, though some relief is expected Monday, with temperatures in the 80s.
Most of Eastern Massachusetts, including Boston, saw a high in the lower 90s on Saturday, said Charles Foley, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service, and a heat advisory for the region was in effect. The dewpoint, a measure of moisture in the air, was roughly 70 degrees.
“That means the heat feels oppressive,” Foley said. “Since the air already has a lot of moisture, it won’t evaporate your sweat. Around the area, it’s going to feel like New Orleans or Cuba or Miami.”
There was some relief along the south coast and on Cape Cod, he said, where temperatures peaked in the 80s or, in some cases, the high 70s.
Boston Emergency Medical Services had two extra trucks on patrol Friday and again Saturday, said Nick Martin, spokesman for the city’s Public Health Commission. On Friday, EMS received about 400 calls, he said, up from the average 340. In the system used to log calls, there were 12 cases Friday where heat was noted specifically, he said, and, as of 3 p.m. Saturday, there were nine.
“Things are calm at the moment,” he said. “Today’s volume is definitely lower than the previous two days.”
EMS has seen no extreme cases of heat-related illness, such as heat stroke or altered mental status, Martin said. He said most calls are from people feeling dizzy, weak, or dehydrated. Children and the elderly are particularly susceptible, though precautions can be taken, including wearing sunscreen, drinking fluids, and avoiding strenuous labor.
The mayor’s office issued its own heat advisory Friday, urging residents to stay in shady or air-conditioned spaces. Boston Centers for Youth & Families have become cooling centers, with air-conditioning and available water, and are open this weekend until 8 p.m.
As of 5 p.m. Saturday, 2,534 people had visited 25 of the sites, said Emilee Ellison, a spokeswoman for the mayor.
The Boston Housing Authority has also activated cooling centers at its properties for the elderly and disabled. The city’s elderly commission sent recorded phone calls on Friday to 30,000 seniors to warn them of the heat.
Anne Campbell, 82, another Monsignor Powers resident, said her air conditioner works but does not reach full blast. She said she plans to ask her nurse to order her another one.
A few blocks away, near the Curley Community Center, which was doubling as a cooling center, Edward Porter, 84, was a rare defender of the heat. He was headed to church in long pants and a buttoned-up shirt.
“I love the warmth,” he said. “It doesn’t affect me at all.”