Heat wave hits northwest, sending people to cooling centers
People headed to cooling centers on Wednesday as the Pacific Northwest began to choke under another major multi-day heat wave just over a month after record temperatures killed hundreds of people the most vulnerable in the region.
Temperatures soared to 97 degrees Fahrenheit (36.1 Celsius) in the evening in Portland, Oregon. In a “worst-case scenario,” the temperature could reach 111 F (44 C) in parts of western Oregon this week before a weekend chill, the National Weather Service said. Temperatures are more likely to reach 100 F (38 C) or higher for three consecutive days, peaking at around 105 F (40.5 C) on Thursday.
Scorching weather was also expected in other parts of the country. The weather service said heat advisories and warnings would be in effect from the Midwest to the Northeast and Mid Atlantic until at least Friday.
High temperatures in Portland, which is part of a generally temperate region, would break all-time records this week if the heat wave in late June hadn’t already done so, meteorologist Tyler Kranz said. Seattle will be cooler than Portland, with temperatures in the mid-90s, but it still has a record-breaking chance, and a lot of people there, like Oregon, don’t have air conditioning.
The forecast was warmer than for Phoenix, a desert city known for its scorching summer temperatures.
“We will often hear people say, ‘What if it’s 106 or 108? It is very hot in Arizona all the time. Well, people in Arizona have air conditioning, and here in the Pacific Northwest a lot of people don’t, ”Kranz said. “You can’t really compare us to the desert in the Southwest.”
People started walking into a 24-hour cooling center in north Portland before it opened on Wednesday. Volunteers and county workers set up cots and stacked hundreds of water bottles in the air-conditioned center of a vacant building.
The first people were homeless, a population vulnerable to the oppressive heat. Among them was December Snedecor, who slept two nights in the same center in June when temperatures reached 116 F (47 C).
She said she planned to sleep there again this week as the heat in her tent was unbearable.
“I doused myself with water a lot. It was in adolescence, a hundred-year-old heat. It made me dizzy. It wasn’t good, ”Snedecor said of the June heat. “I just have to stay cool. I do not want to die.
Governor Kate Brown declared a state of emergency and activated an emergency operations center, citing the potential for disruption to the electricity grid and transportation. In addition to opening cooling centers, city and county governments are extending the opening hours of public libraries and removing bus fees for those heading to cooling centers. A 24-hour statewide helpline will direct callers to the nearest cooling shelter and offer safety advice.
Emergency officials have sent alerts to phones, said Dan Douthit, spokesperson for the Portland Bureau of Emergency Management.
“We don’t know exactly how hot it will be, but we predict the worst-case scenario,” he said.
Back-to-back heat waves, coupled with an unusually hot and dry summer overall, hit an area where summer highs typically drift into the 1970s or 1980s. Intense heat waves and a historic drought in the American West reflect climate change which makes the weather conditions more extreme.
The June heat in Oregon, Washington State and British Columbia killed hundreds and sounded the alarm bells about what lies ahead in a warming world. This was virtually impossible without man-made climate change, detailed scientific analysis revealed.
In Oregon, authorities released the names of 96 people who had died from heat-related illnesses, and the hot weather was under investigation as a possible cause of many more deaths. Washington state has reported more than 100 heat-related deaths, and British Columbia officials say hundreds of “sudden and unexpected deaths” were likely due to soaring temperatures.
The toll revealed huge blind spots in contingency planning in an area unaccustomed to dealing with such high temperatures, said Vivek Shandas, professor of climate adaptation at Portland State University.
Most of those who died in Oregon were older, homebound and socially isolated, and many were unable or unwilling to visit cooling centers.
The call center designed to provide information on cooling centers was unmanned during part of the heat spike, and hundreds of callers were left stranded in a voicemail menu that did not include a prompt. heat-related help. Portland’s famous light rail also closed to reduce strain on the power grid, eliminating a transportation option for low-income residents seeking relief.
This time around, local and state officials added more cooling centers and included a prompt in the call center voicemail.
“We knew a week in advance. What if we knew an earthquake was going to hit us a week in advance? Shandas said. “This is the kind of thinking we need to be aligned with.”
Yet even the youngest residents battled the heat in June and dreaded the sweltering temperatures this week.
Katherine Morgan, 27, has no air conditioning in her third-floor apartment and can’t afford a window with the money she earns working in a bookstore and as a hostess in a brewery.
She will have to walk to work on Thursday, a day when temperatures could soar again.
“All of my friends and I knew climate change was real, but it’s getting really scary because it was getting progressively hot – and it was suddenly really hot, really fast,” Morgan said.