The heat hung on in the Washington area for another day yesterday, a few degrees lower here and there but breaking another temperature record in suburban Virginia and tying one in Maryland.

Relief, however, should be at hand today, with humidity down, temperatures lower by 10 degrees and winds blessedly arriving from the North, forecasters say.

Today's high is expected to be only in the mid-80s, said AccuWeather forecaster Mark Tobin. And tomorrow will be even nicer: lower 80s in town, and some places in the suburbs could reach only the upper 70s.

As for rain . . .

"It looks like we're going to be waiting quite some time for any good chance of any precipitation," he said. "Maybe sometime next week."

Today's relative cool-down comes, though, after the area's third day of temperatures in the middle and upper 90s, a day that felt as hot as the others, that baked sidewalks, soaked shirts and again got some youngsters out of school early.

It didn't start out so badly.

Things actually felt pleasant yesterday morning. Although it was 83 at 8 a.m.--slightly hotter than Tuesday's 8 a.m. reading of 81--the humidity had dropped to 50 percent, from Tuesday's 66 percent.

As yesterday wore on, though, it got just plain hot.

The mercury hit 97 at 4 p.m. at Reagan National Airport, falling well short of the local record of 102 set in 1874.

At Dulles International Airport, where records don't go back as far, the 5 p.m. reading of 96 beat the record for the date of 94 degrees, set in 1993. At 4 p.m., Baltimore-Washington International Airport tied the record of 95, set in 1984.

The heat once again closed schools in the District, where students were dismissed at 12:30 p.m. But other systems, like Montgomery County's, stayed open, as they had all week.

Montgomery County told the staffs of its two dozen schools that were not air-conditioned that teachers would be reimbursed for any extra fluids they supplied to thirsty students.

And there were scattered problems with power. More than 100 Fairfax County residents spent a sticky morning waiting for electricity to be restored in two separate power outages.

A spokesman for Virginia Power said that 64 customers along Braddock Road between Fairfax City and Burke were without electricity for two hours and 10 minutes. An underground cable failed at 8:29 a.m., causing the disruption, the spokesman said.

An additional 52 customers along Zion Road near George Mason University and Route 123 had no electricity for an hour and 43 minutes after a bird hit a power line, causing a short, the spokesman said.

Demand for electricity continued to rise along with temperatures: Peak usage, which is reported a day late, was 14,850 megawatts at 5 p.m. Tuesday, higher than Monday's peak of 14,356 megawatts. Low demand was 8,126 megawatts at 5 a.m. Tuesday, the power spokesman said.

Demand for electricity typically spikes in the morning and then again at the end of the workday. The power company is again cooperating with the state government in a program called "Fancare," which provides free fans to the elderly. The program distributed 2,369 fans statewide last year, according to Virginia Power.

Staff writer Linda Perlstein contributed to this report.

CAPTION: In Rockville, Kunal Arora wipes sweat off his face after his mother picked him up early at Mill Creek Towne Elementary School, which lacks air conditioning.