Record-breaking heat seared the east coast this afternoon and there's more to come. Temperatures may continue to climb through the early evening, meteorologists said, and another record-breaker is forecast for Thursday.

In Philadelphia, 96 degrees was reached inching out the record of 95 set in 2008. In Newark, temps topped out at 99 breaking a record of 97 set in 1999.

"And temperatures may still climb a degree or two," said Carl Erickson, senior meteorologist for Accuweather.com. "We could have more records set after 7 or 8 this evening."

The region will continue to bake through Thursday with the possibility of reaching 99, besting the 98 set in 1933.

Just in case you didn't get the message, the region remains under an excessive heat warning.

Not since last July 7, when the mercury hot 103 (on the heels of 102 the day before), have thermometers topped 97.

It could feel like 102 this afternoon because of the humidity. That's the prediction for the heat index - the measure of how warm it feels, when mugginess is factored in. Thursday could seem hotter.

Even at the Shore, temperatures in the low 90s are even expected both days.

Concerned that heat-related illnesses are likely, the National Weather Service recommends that everyone - especially children, the elderly and pets - keep out of the sun, stay in air-conditioned rooms, and drink plenty of fluids.

Remember to check on relatives and neighbors, the weather service also advises, adding, "Please do not leave anyone unattended in a vehicle for any length of time. It could result in their death."

Many schools plan to close early around the region, because of a lack of sufficient air-conditioning. Philadelphia public and Archdiocesan schools will send students home at 1:30 p.m. today.

Philadelphia police marine units in the meantime are expected to be on the lookout for young people swimming the Delaware River, which has proved fatal in the past.

For heat-coping tips, call the Heatline of the Philadelphia Corp. for Aging at 215-765-9040 from noon to midnight today and 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday.

After Thursday, high temperatures should decline through early next week, from about 90 Friday to low 80s Saturday and Sunday to the upper 70s on Monday and Tuesday.

Showers and thunderstorms are possible, starting with a slight chance Thursday afternoon but continuing through Saturday, when the odds rise to about 40 percent, according to the weather service.

Showers, but no thunderstorms, are mentioned from Saturday night to Sunday night.

The excessive heat warning applies to Philadelphia, its surrounding suburban counties on both sides of the Delaware River, Mercer County in New Jersey, and New Castle County in Delaware.

For more on the forecast, go to http://go.philly.com/weather.

Contact staff writer Peter Mucha at 215-854-4342 or pmucha@phillynews.com.