The Washington area endured a second straight day of record, teeth-chattering cold yesterday. The low temperatures were blamed for at least two local deaths and other problems ranging from a snarled commuter rush to broken water mains. Some relief--but not much--was forecast for today.

Thousands trying to get to work yesterday morning found themselves up against cars, buses and rail lines that balked at the cold. Once they got where they were going, many were sent home again because their schools or office buildings had no heat. Staying at home was no alternative for at least 1,500 Washington families, whose homes lacked heat and hot water.

The National Weather Service predicted some respite today from the Arctic cold wave that dropped the temperature to a record-low 2 degrees at National Airport at 4:35 a.m. yesterday, eclipsing the previous record of 6 degrees set on Jan. 11, 1942. Northwest winds gusted up to 33 miles an hour and created a chill equivalent to minus 34 degrees at 6 a.m., the weather service said.

Forecasters predicted temperatures would climb to the middle 20s today and the 30s by Thursday--still colder than Washington's normal high temperatures for this time of year, which hover in the low 40s.

Nationally, the invasion of Canadian air whipped by high winds was blamed for at least 39 deaths, including some elderly persons who froze to death in unheated homes. The cold wave brought the lowest temperatures of the century to much of the nation east of the Mississippi, and forced a number of factories and schools to close. Buffalo, hit by a winter storm in the midst of the numbing cold, was digging out yesterday from 20 inches of snow.

At least two cold-related deaths were reported in Washington, authorities said yesterday. James Fox, 53, a homeless man, was found dead of exposure Friday outside St. Aloysius Church at North Capitol and I streets. William H. Jackson of 5535 Kansas Ave. NW was found dead of carbon monoxide poisoning after he warmed up a car inside his garage yesterday, according to the D.C. medical examiner.

Outside Baltimore, John Snyder, 63, of Irvington, was found dead of heart failure Sunday night near a suburban bus stop. Officials said the cold weather probably was a factor.

Two boaters on the Potomac River near Occoquan were missing and presumed dead after their boat got stuck in ice and they jumped overboard to seek help; two others who remained on the boat were rescued.

The two missing men were identified as Joseph Mitchell of Statesville, N.C., and Michael Glover of Woodbridge. Further identification of the two was not available. The two survivors were identified as Thomas Clark, 31, and Mark Freyle, in his early 20s, both of Dale City. It was not clear why the men set out in the boat in such extreme weather.

More than 170 of Metro's 1,600 diesel buses refused to start yesterday, along with 43 of Montgomery County's 86 Ride-On commuter buses, delaying thousands of commuters and jamming the remaining buses with overflow crowds. Metrorail cars ran smoothly, but frozen switches delayed trains on all three lines during yesterday's morning rush hour, a spokesman said.

Hardships--large and small --were the order of the day for Washington area residents who had to cope with balky furnaces, frozen water pipes, and reluctant cars. The Potomac branch of the American Automobile Association reported more than 5,500 emergency road-service calls Sunday and Monday, an apparent record number, with three-hour waits for service, a spokesman said.

In Takoma Park last night, an nine-story apartment building was closed and and its 200 residents evacuated after freezing temperatures in the lobby of the building caused the water pipes to burst. The electrical power for the Edinburgh House, 7513 Maple Ave., was cut off after water leaking from the pipes flooded the lobby and the basement, damaged power lines and created a fire hazard.

The Montgomery County Red Cross joined Takoma police and fire officials in helping some residents seek shelter in the Piney Branch Middle School across the street from the building. But most families were helped by friends and relatives, a Red Cross official said.

In Apartment 109 at the District's Arthur Capper housing project at 601 Virginia Ave. SE, DorotheaKoppke, 63, surveyed the chaos in her two-bedroom home yesterday and cried.

Koppke's home had been without heat for nearly a week, according to her daughter, Melanie Barnes. But yesterday morning, a pipe burst on Koppke's water heater, flooding the apartment with steaming water that then froze. Hers was one of more than 600 units that lost heat or hot water at seven public housing projects yesterday, according to the city's Department of Housing and Community Development.

In addition, more than a thousand privately owned units lost heat or hot water, according to Mayor Marion Barry's emergency command center. Major apartment complexes, including the 175-unit Edgewood Terrace in Northeast and the 100-unit Atlantic Gardens in Southeast, lost heat or hot water when pipes froze and furnaces broke down or ran out of oil, said Clarence Mitchell, operations officer at the command post.

Even several modern office buildings were not unscathed by the cold. "It was awful," said Rebecca Mays, an employe of Omega Travel at 1919 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, a new office building whose lobby and first-floor areas, including the travel firm, were flooded by a broken water main. Mays was wearing her coat as she worked yesterday in an office with wet carpeting and iced windows. The Pennsylvania Avenue water main break was one of at least four major ruptures that flooded and then iced city intersections, officials said.

Federal government offices were shut down in at least six locations, forcing more than 3,000 federal workers to leave work, according to the General Services Administration. A thousand Department of Agriculture employes were sent home when a sprinkler burst on an upper floor of the Park Center building in Rosslyn, GSA said, and 600 Defense workers were let off because of a broken water main at 5600 Columbia Pike.

In Montgomery County, three schools closed because of heat problems, including Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, but they were expected to reopen today. The county's Office of Consumer Affairs and its Park Avenue office complex were closed, while the new county office building had heating problems, with County Executive Charles Gilchrist's office a chilly 54 degrees.

Prince George's County was forced to close 10 schools, including Parkdale Senior High and Bladensburg and Francis Scott Key junior highs, because of malfunctioniong heating systems. School officials were unsure which buildings would reopen today.

District school officials sent 614 students home from Phelps Career Center, 24th Street and Benning Road NE, because the building had no heat.

Arlington's schools opened an hour late to allow buildings time to heat up, but 1,500 students were sent home from Washington and Lee High School. The Fairfax City Hall closed at noon because of heating problems.

Records for energy use were set yesterday by all four major utilities in the region, according to spokesmen for Potomac Electric Power Co., Virginia Electric and Power Co., Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. and Washington Gas Light Co.

Among those taken by surprise by the severity of the cold were the authors of the 190th edition of the Farmers Almanac, who had predicted "rain, locally heavy, mild" for Jan. 8 through 10 in the mid-Atlantic States.