Thunderstorms hammered western and central Massachusetts overnight, leaving many without power on Friday morning, but the Boston area was spared the brunt of the storms, which capped off another day of oppressive heat that will continue Friday across southern New England.
By 9:30 a.m. Friday, just over 1,700 customers were without power, down from more than 21,000 Thursday night, according to the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency. The majority of outages were reported in Hampshire and Hampden counties, particularly in towns surrounding Northampton. There also were hundreds of outages in Gloucester.
There is a threat of isolated strong to severe storms on Friday afternoon into the evening, according to the National Weather Service.
Friday marks the third day of this week’s heat wave, where temperatures in Boston rose into the upper 90s on Thursday, and forecasters are expecting the hot weather to stick around into Saturday, when temperatures could return to the mid and lower 90s.
An excessive heat watch, where heat index values could reach up to 105, also remains in effect from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. Friday across much of southern New England, excluding the Cape and Islands, and the eastern slopes of the Berkshires, according to the National Weather Service.
Heat index values — or how hot it feels outside when relative humidity is factored in — could reach up to 103 in Springfield and Providence. Those values are expected to climb close to 100 degrees in areas around Boston, according to the weather service.
Excessive heat risk is expected to hit “significant” levels around Boston and southwest of Boston, as well as in Fitchburg, Worcester, Providence, and Springfield on Friday and into the evening.. The rest of the state will see “elevated” and “limited” threat risks, the National Weather Service said.
The extreme heat and humidity will “significantly” increase the potential for heat-related illnesses, particularly for those who work outside or participate in outdoor activities, forecasters said. Residents are encouraged to drink plenty of fluids, stay in air-conditioned rooms, remain out of the sun, and check up on relatives and neighbors. Forecasters are reminding people not to leave pets or children unattended inside vehicles “under any circumstances.”
Forecasters also are encouraging people to wear lightweight and loose-fitting clothing when possible. To reduce risk during outdoor work, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommends scheduling frequent rest breaks in shaded or air-conditioned environments.
It’s the third time this summer that residents will have to sweat through a heat wave. The last occurred at the end of June, when temperatures soared above 90 degrees — but felt even hotter than 100 degrees.
In the Boston area, 90-degree days have been steadily increasing over the past several decades, arriving not only earlier but more often. The latest stifling set of temperatures and humidity are in line with the trends meteorologists have long been tracking, with the extreme heat and lack of cooler nights pointing to climate change.
Heat becomes “especially dangerous” if it lingers for longer than a day, with the hot days and warm nights not giving “our bodies enough time to cool down,” the forecasters warned.
Heat islands — primarily concentrated in lower-income neighborhoods throughout Boston — can intensify the extreme hot weather further, the National Weather Service said. Extreme heat can cause medical issues, including breathing problems, heatstroke, and heat cramps. It can even lead to death.