Northwest Risks Wildfire As Historic Heat Wave Blasts
Temperatures in many areas of Washington and Oregon are expected to reach up to 30 degrees above normal.
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The Pacific Northwest sweltered Friday and braced for even hotter weather through the weekend as a historic heat wave hit Washington and Oregon, with temperatures in many areas expected to top out up to 30 degrees above normal.
The extreme and dangerous heat was expected to break all-time records in cities and towns from eastern Washington state to Portland to southern Oregon as concerns mounted about wildfire risk in a region that is already experiencing a crippling and extended drought.
Seattle was expected to edge above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) over the weekend and in Portland, Oregon, weather forecasters said the thermometer could soar to 108 F (42 C) by Sunday, breaking an all-time record of 107 F (42 C) set in 1981. Unusually hot weather was expected to extend into next week for much of the region.
Seattle has only hit 100 F three times in recorded history, the National Weather Service said, and there was a chance it could eclipse the record of 103 F (39 C) on Monday.
“If you’re keeping a written list of the records that will fall, you might need a few pages by early next week,” NWS Seattle tweeted, as it announced that the city had already tied a record Friday for the highest morning-low temperature.
The extremely hot weather comes a week after a heat wave in the intermountain West broke records from Montana to Arizona.
The Northwest heat wave sent residents scrambling in a region accustomed to mild summers where many people don’t have air conditioning. Stores sold out of portable air conditioners and fans, some hospitals canceled outdoor vaccination clinics, cities opened cooling centers, baseball teams canceled or moved up weekend games, and utilities braced for possible power outages.
Washingto Gov. Jay Inslee lifted COVID-19 capacity restrictions on publicly owned or operated and non-profit cooling centers in light of the heat. Capacity is currently limited to 50% until the state fully reopens next Wednesday. And in Oregon, Gov. Kate Brown suspended capacity limits for movie theaters and shopping malls — places with air-conditioning — as well as swimming pools ahead of a statewide reopening Wednesday.
According to 2019 figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, Seattle has the lowest rate of air-conditioned homes of any major American city. Only 44% of the homes in the metro area have air conditioning. In the Portland metro area, that figure was 79%.
At a hardware store in Seattle, about a dozen people lined up before opening hoping to snag an air conditioning unit. A worker opened the door at 8 a.m. with bad news: there were only three units.
One of the lucky buyers was Sarah O’Sell, who was worried for her cat amid predictions of triple digits.