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Statewide heat advisories close schools, open cooling centers

If you want to see the city in a new light, try infrared.
If you want to see the city in a new light, try infrared. (Mark Gartsbeyn)

It might not be quite hot enough to fry an egg on a roof this week, but it might just be warm enough to scramble one.

No one knows this better than Christian Follett, 34, who has been a roofer with his father’s company for more than half his life. It’s not the heat that gets him, he said as he lifted his soaked white T-shirt to wipe sweat from his face. It’s the glare from the copper he’s hammering down onto historic roofs in Beacon Hill, the orange light playing across his suntanned skin.

“After lunch is the worst because once you stop, you don’t want to start again,” he said Tuesday, leaning back from his perch against the chimney to inspect his gleaming handiwork.

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Despite his extreme circumstances, Follett is far from the only one suffering the heat these days. This summer is among the hottest on record, and the National Weather Service issued an excessive heat watch for eastern Massachusetts on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“Unfortunately for everybody, we’re going to have to put up with the same thing tomorrow,” said Alan Dunham, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Norton, on Tuesday. “Tomorrow’s record is 96, set in 1953. I think we’ve got a real shot tomorrow of breaking it.”

Meteorologists predict that Wednesday’s high should be around 99 degrees, which Dunham, who has been a meteorologist for more than 40 years, called “unusual.”

“Having temperatures hit low 90s in August? No, it’s not a big deal. But hitting the mid- to upper 90s?” he said. “Both Boston and Providence are in jeopardy.”

The broiling temperatures, which feel closer to 105 according to the heat index, led many public schools around Boston to dismiss students early.

Gerry Nutter, a member of the Lowell School Committee, said he felt they had no choice but to dismiss students two hours early on Tuesday and Wednesday. A few classrooms have fans, but the older buildings don’t have air conditioning, he said.

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“We have many kids with asthma and other health issues,” Nutter said. “It was a very good call by acting Superintendent Durkin to order the early dismissals today and for tomorrow.”

Gary Graham was sweating through the sweltering midday heat in Allston.
Gary Graham was sweating through the sweltering midday heat in Allston.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Barnstable Public Schools postponed its opening day of school, scheduled for Wednesday, due to the heat.

In other districts, early dismissals due to heat advisories are a first, said Lisa Evangelista, public relations officer for Medford Public Schools. With decades-old buildings and some classrooms with no windows, there’s no way to keep everyone cool. High school students were let out at noon.

“The humidity between tomorrow and today is what’s making it almost dangerous,” Evangelista said.

Dr. Jack Maypole, a pediatrician at Boston Medical Center, urged parents to be patient with the early dismissals.

“It’s on everyone’s mind because we’re all swimming in the same heat,” Maypole said. “It’s better to have a kid home and safe and ‘normal-thermic’ than a child who is potentially showing up sick and overheated.”

Maypole suggested parents remember to top off their children’s water bottles, dress them in appropriate clothing, and take other health problems into consideration.

Sweltering residents took to pools and fountains on Tuesday to cool off, splashing and relaxing in cool water or lounging in air-conditioned rooms. Many availed themselves of emergency response cooling centers that had opened in senior centers or public libraries around the state.

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On Monday, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh reminded residents to be careful and declared that cooling centers would be open to everyone, regardless of membership, at the community centers run by the Boston Centers for Youth and Families. Residents can also swim at the city’s pools free of charge Tuesday and Wednesday.

“We’ve done it every month this summer because it’s been so hot, but it’s been a lot more days this year,” said Sandy Holden, a spokeswoman with Boston Centers for Youth and Families. “You can just come in and cool off.”

Last summer, they only activated cooling centers once, she said. This summer, it’s 11 times and counting.

As Follett worked in the broiling noon sun, he thought of the coming evening with his wife and 3-year-old daughter.

“I’m tired every day, but with the heat, it’s twice as bad,” he said.

He turned back to the copper roofing and started soldering the seams of the shiny orange sheets he’d spent the morning hammering down by hand. Despite the glare and the heat, he moved carefully through the artisanal finishes on the building, laying down a roof that should protect the house for more than 100 years.

Josiah Saint Cyr cooled down in a blowup pool in Charlestown on Tuesday.
Josiah Saint Cyr cooled down in a blowup pool in Charlestown on Tuesday. Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

Amelia Nierenberg can be reached at amelia.nierenberg@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @ajnierenberg. Cristela Guerra can be reached at cristela.guerra@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @CristelaGuerra.