Northwest faces ‘dangerous heat wave’ in area where air conditioning is generally not needed

Some Pacific Northwest stores sell portable air conditioners and fans as residents accustomed to balmy summers brace for a heat wave that could bring triple-digit temperatures to major cities.

Seattle and Portland are ripe for temperatures near or above 100 degrees, and cities in the region are also expected to feel the scorch of that scorching heat, Alex Sosnowski, AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist wrote.

The Dalles, Oregon, which has a population of around 16,000, could approach its all-time high of 112 degrees on Sunday, and Spokane, Wash., could also make history with its run of predicted 100-degree temperatures.

Seattle had its second hottest morning on Saturday, the Seattle National Weather Service tweeted.

“Dangerous heat wave affects Pacific Northwest and southern California”, the National Weather Service tweeted. “More than a hundred record temperatures are forecast this weekend through Thursday.”

Watch: U.S. Pacific Northwest braces for record-breaking heat wave

Such record heat is not only unusual, it can be dangerous.

Limited access to air conditioning raises health concerns

Many residents of the Pacific Northwest do not have constant access to air conditioning: Less than two-thirds of Oregon households have air conditioning, according to Kaiser Permanente Northwest.

According to 2019 figures from the US Census Bureau, Seattle has the lowest rate of air-conditioned homes of any major US city. Only 44% of homes in the metropolitan area are air conditioned. In the Portland metropolitan area, that figure was 79%.

This only complicates efforts to stay cool, and scorching temperatures can make people physically ill.

High temperatures can induce “serious health-related illnesses, including heat exhaustion and heat stroke,” according to healthcare company Kaiser Permanente.

Heat exhaustion, a condition which “occurs when you cannot sweat enough to cool your body”, makes the skin pale, cold and damp and may be indicated by symptoms such as “fatigue, weakness, headache. head, dizziness and nausea ”, according to Kaiser Permanente. Moderate to severe cases of heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke, which can be fatal.


People gather in the Sandy River Delta near Troutdale to cool off at the start of what is expected to be a record breaking heat wave on June 25. The Pacific Northwest suffocated on Friday as a historic heat wave hit Washington and Oregon, with temperatures expected in many areas to exceed 25 to 30 degrees above normal in the coming days.

Extreme heat can also strain the electrical infrastructure, potentially compromising the region’s already exceptionally poor access to A / C cooling relief.

“With the sweltering weather, the demand for electricity to run air conditioning and fans is increasing. ” reported the Statesman Journal.

Rising temperatures are also raising concerns about air quality and forest fires.

Kristie Ebi, a professor at the University of Washington who studies global warming and its effects on public health, said warm air sucks moisture from soil and vegetation more efficiently than cooler air, which which makes everything more prone to fire.

Oregon in particular was devastated by an unusually intense wildfire season last fall that burned down about 1 million acres, burned more than 4,000 homes and killed nine people. Several fires are already burning around the Pacific Northwest, and much of the region is already in extreme or exceptional drought, according to the US Drought Monitor.

How to stay cool in the heat of the Pacific Northwest

There are several steps residents can take to stay cool and reduce the health impacts of a heat wave.

For people who don’t have access to air conditioning, there are a few alternatives to help cool the home, depending on the Seattle National Weather Service.

Opening home windows at night, keeping blinds closed, using drafts from fans, cooking outside, and sleeping at low elevations can alleviate the severity of the heat.

Public amenities in local communities can also serve as an oasis when temperatures start to soar. Places like libraries, community centers and churches turn into cooling stations by opening their air-conditioned doors to the public. Salem, Oregon has established a number of these cooling stations for this weekend, according to the Statesman Journal.

In cases where a person is suffering from heat exhaustion, there are a few self-administered interventions that can be taken to relieve symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Finding a cool place to rest, staying hydrated with water or sports drinks, soaking the body in cool water, and removing heavy layers of clothing can all help relieve the physical discomfort of exhaustion. by heat. However, medical attention should be sought if exhaustion persists for more than an hour.

How long will the heat last?

Residents of the Pacific Northwest can expect the heat wave to continue until the middle of next week, with the tweet of the national weather service that record temperatures are expected to continue through Thursday. However, the sweltering heat could become more and more common in the years to come.

Ebi said this extended “thermal dome” is a taste of the future for the Pacific Northwest as climate change reshapes weather patterns around the world.

“We know from evidence around the world that climate change is increasing the frequency, intensity and duration of heat waves,” Ebi said. “We’re going to have to get used to it in the future. Temperatures are rising and temperature extremes are rising even faster.

“I tell my students, when they’re as old as me, they’re going to look back and think about how nice the summers were.”

Contribution: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Seattle and Portland heat wave in the Pacific Northwest is ‘dangerous’


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