Forecasters say relief is on the way as a cold front approaches for the weekend.
Amid heat advisories and warnings in 23 states, temperatures pushed well past 100 degrees in New Jersey on Friday, and New York City set a record for power usage as customers sought relief in air conditioners.
The National Weather Service said the hottest spot in the early afternoon was at Lakehurst Naval Air Station in New Jersey, which recorded a temperature of 106 degrees.
Newark, N.J., tied a record of 100 degrees, while New York's LaGuardia Airport tied a record of 99 degrees, the National Weather Service reported. Islip, N.Y., set a record of 93 degrees.
ConEdison, which supplies power to New York City, posted an all-time peak of 13,214 megawatts of usage at 2 p.m. ET.
As the nation baked, forecasters promised that an approaching cold front would bring relief - along with chances of damaging storms - for hard-hit areas from Iowa to Maine.
The weather service had issued Friday's heat advisories and warnings for parts of 23 states, where more than 141 million people live.
Friday's soaring heat capped a week-long summer scorcher, with every state in the nation except Alaska hitting 90 degrees or higher on Thursday.
Officials are blaming hot weather for at least one death. A 78-year-old Alzheimer's patient died of heat exhaustion after wandering away from his northern Kentucky home.
The oppressively hot weather in the Northeast has surprised meteorologists, moving backward across America, something that rarely happens.
The western Atlantic high pressure system behind the hot dry weather started moving east to west last week and by Tuesday was centered over lower Michigan, said Jon Gottschalck, the operations chief at the National Weather Service's prediction branch.
"It's definitely unusual and going the wrong way," Gottschalck said Thursday. "This is pretty rare."
The unusual movement wasn't seen in computer models until four or five days in advance, which is relatively late for these models, so meteorologists were surprised, he said.
The approaching cold front - with the promise of weekend relief - was expected to move through the Midwest and Great Lakes on Friday and then on to the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions Saturday, according to AccuWeather.
Meanwhile, the heat has taken its toll on people and infrastructure alike:
• On Thursday, soaring temperatures buckled highway pavement in several states.
• In Chicago, city officials said the Department of Family and Support services have placed thousands of calls to senior citizens reminding them to stay out of direct sunlight and keep hydrated.
• In Indianapolis, firefighters evacuated 300 people from a senior living community after a power outage knocked out the air conditioning.
• Riders on Chicago's Metra transit system could expect delays up to 15 minutes because of reduced speeds to compensate for heat-related stress on the tracks, WGN reports.
Contributing: The Associated Press