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In Boston, the sweltering temperatures pushed a window-washing company to adjust its hours.

Victor Cruz, 24, usually starts his day with Cliffhangers Inc. at 6:45 a.m. But on Wednesday, he was washing ground floor doors and windows at Boston’s Intercontinental Hotel starting at 4 a.m., so his day would end at noon, instead of 3:30 p.m.

“It’s just exhausting,” Mr. Cruz said, pining for the days he used to work in a bank. “I actually took Tuesday off because it was just too hot. When it’s like this we’ll sit in the van every so often with the air conditioner on for a few minutes just to cool down.”

Deaths blamed on the heat included a 92-year-old Philadelphia woman whose body was found Monday and a homeless woman found lying next to a car Sunday in suburban Detroit.

Tuesday’s hot weather broke records for the day in New York, where it hit 103, and in Philadelphia, where it reached 102.

Those cities and other dense, built-up areas are getting hit with the heat in a way their counterparts in suburbs and rural areas aren’t. Cities absorb more solar energy during the day and are slower to release it at night.

With people cranking up the air conditioning Tuesday, energy officials said there was tremendous demand for electricity, but the grid didn’t buckle. Usage appeared to be falling just short of records set throughout the Northeast during a 2006 heat wave.

Meteorologists in some places began calling the current hot stretch a heat wave, defined in the Northeast as three consecutive days of temperatures of 90 or above. New Jersey’s largest city, Newark, handily beat that threshold, hitting 100 for the third day in a row. Temperatures throughout the Mid-Atlantic region were expected to be in the high 90s to 100 again Wednesday.

Associated Press Writers Mark Pratt in Boston, Eva Dou in New York and Michael Hill in Albany, N.Y., contributed to this report.