Near-record heat is expected to continue baking Maine this week with no significant break expected until Friday.

Portland hit a high temperature of 97 degrees Fahrenheit on Monday, said Maura Casey, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray. That was one degree shy of the record for the date of 98 degrees, which was set in 1991. In Augusta, however, the high of 94 topped the previous record of 93, also set in 1991, Casey said.

In response, the city of Augusta opened a cooling center in three conference rooms at the Augusta Civic Center that’s expected to be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Wednesday to give people without access to air conditioning a place to cool off.

Boston tied its record high for the day at 97, the Associated Press reported, and record high minimum temperatures – overnight “lows” – were set in Vermont.

To escape Monday’s extreme heat, Liz Feeney swims in the Mousam River in Springvale. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Throughout Maine, health officials recommended that people limit outdoor activities for themselves and pets, and suggested checking in on neighbors to make sure they’re not suffering from heat illness.

A ridge of high pressure will keep the heat on in Maine through the week, Casey said, with a break expected to arrive in a series of cold fronts that reach Maine late Thursday.

Although daytime temperatures will moderate by a few degrees over the next four days, she said, the humidity will stay high and overnight lows aren’t expected to dip much below 70, meaning uncomfortable sleeping weather until the cooler weather arrives Friday.

“The heat – and especially the humidity – will take its sweet time getting out the door,” Casey said.

A stronger sea breeze tomorrow means Portland’s record high temperature for the date of 96, set in 1944, is likely safe, she said.

But Tuesday will mark the third day of the heat wave and that’s a key time for air conditioner sales, said Paul Gross, a sales associate at Maine Hardware in Portland.

Paul Gross loads up an air conditioning unit to bring out to a customer’s car at Maine Hardware on Monday. Gross said the store had sold about 20 air conditioners just that day, but he suspects even more will sell on Tuesday. “Something about the third hot day in a row makes people break down and buy the AC,” he said. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Gross said people generally decide they need an air conditioner after a second sleepless night due to the heat.

“They get fed up with fans and that’s when air conditioner sales take off,” he said.

Prices for room-size air conditioners run from about $170 for a small window unit to about $630 for a larger portable unit. Portable units can be wheeled from room-to-room, Gross said, but the hot air still needs to be vented out a window.

Maine Hardware has plenty of air conditioners on hand, Gross said, because the store began making purchases in December. He said Maine Hardware was mindful of supply problems on some items due to the pandemic and decided to make sure it had enough ACs when the heat set in.

City officials opened a cooling center at the Portland Ice Arena to give residents a place to chill Monday, but only two people had used it by early afternoon, officials said.

Jim Feeney walks up the Mousam River in Springvale on Monday. Feeney is visiting Maine from upstate New York and visited the river to escape Monday’s extreme heat. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

The heat baking Maine pales in comparison to the heat wave hitting the Pacific Northwest, where temperatures on Monday topped all-time highs set Sunday.

Seattle hit 107 degrees by midafternoon – well above Sunday’s all-time high of 104 – on the way to an expected high of 110 F (43 C). Portland, Oregon, reached 113 degrees after hitting new records of 108 on Saturday and 112 on Sunday.

Light rail and street car service was suspended in Portland after power cables melted and the heat strained the region’s power grid, AP said.

The heat closed schools and businesses and Seattle officials closed a public pool because they were concerned swimmers could burn their feet on the deck, the AP reported.

Casey said that heat in the West is expected to ease as it moves east and then break up over the Midwest so it’s not expected to impact Maine. She said the holiday weekend weather here is expected to be cooler and somewhat rainy, although heavy and steadier rain is expected to stay in southern New England.

Kennebec Journal Staff Writer Jessica Lowell contributed to this report.

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