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As heat wave continues, peak electricity use predicted for Thursday

Valley residents are looking forward to the weekend even more than usual as meteorologists have forecast the heat wave affecting southern New England could end Saturday or Sunday.

More bearable temperatures are on the horizon, but as day five of the heat wave dawned Thursday, workers at the Holyoke company that runs the electrical grid for New England prepared for what they think will be a record-setting day for electricity use.

“If our predictions hold true, we could see the strongest demand for the week,” said Lacey Ryan, a spokeswoman for ISO New England. The company expects more air conditioners to be in use Thursday because heat has been building in homes or buildings over the last four days of hot weather.

The company is predicting energy use Thursday will peak at 27,600 megawatts, which would make it the third-highest usage day on record after two dates, Aug. 2, 2006, and July 22, 2011.

Ryan said official data on whether Wednesday’s electricity use made it into the top 10 of peak energy days would not be available until Thursday. But according to ISO New England’s preliminary data, graphed in real time on the company’s website, Wednesday was No. 10 for energy use.

At 4:40 p.m., the grid used 26,695 megawatts, according to the ISO data reported Wednesday night.

Still, Ryan said the company is confident it will be able to power all the area’s air conditioners without a problem. “The power grid has been operating well — we’ve been able to manage the high demand,” Ryan said. As always, she said, it’s a good idea for people to conserve energy if they can do so without detriment to their health.

At the National Weather Service in Taunton, meteorologist Stephanie Dunten said the heat indices for Thursday and Friday would stay at or near 100 degrees. “For the next several days, temperatures will be in the low to mid-90s and the humidity will be oppressive in the upper 60s and lower 70s,” Dunten said.

There is a chance of rain Thursday night and Friday afternoon, but Dunten said any relief from the showers or storms will be scattered and short-lived. “After a shower passes through and the air stabilizes, the temperature will go back up,” she said.

On Saturday, temperatures will top out at 90 degrees as a cold front will approach the area, bringing storms and showers. “The cold front will move in Sunday and temperatures and humidity will drop,” she said. The following week’s temperatures will be much more seasonal, in the low to mid-80s, she said.

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.

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