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Grueling heatwave sears Pacific north-west as Portland could top 102F | US news


Portland is facing another grueling heatwave with temperatures in the normally temperate Pacific north-west city expected to climb as high as 102F on Tuesday.

The Oregon city is one of the least air-conditioned in the US and officials have declared an emergency in response to the severe heat, opening cooling centers in public buildings, including emergency overnight shelters and installing misting stations in parks.

Much of the region is facing extreme heat this week with parts of Oregon and Washington state under excessive heat warnings. In Seattle, temperatures set a new all-time high for Tuesday of 94F (34.4C), breaking the previous record of 92F (33.3C) from 2018, according to the National Weather Service.

Elsewhere in Washington state, record daily temperatures were also registered in Bellingham and the capital Olympia, which experienced 90F (32.2C) and 97F (36.1C) respectively.

Oregon health officials said there has been an uptick in the number of people reporting heat-related illness in emergency departments and the number of those calling emergency services numbers for similar symptoms.

“Heat-related illness daily visits are above expected levels statewide,” said Jonathan Modie, lead communications officer at the Oregon Health Authority’s Public Health Division. He said there were 32 such visits to emergency departments on Monday compared to three to five per day before the heat wave began.

“To have five-day stretches or a week-long stretch above 90 degrees is very, very rare for the Pacific north-west,” said Vivek Shandas, professor of climate adaptation at Portland State University.

The heatwave comes as the climate crisis fuels extreme weather across the world. A deadly heat dome in the region last summer brought record temperatures and killed about 900 people in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. Most of Oregon’s deaths were concentrated in Portland, which reached an all-time high of 116F (46.6C). A detailed scientific analysis found that the occurrence of that heatwave would have been nearly impossible without human-caused climate change.

A man rests on a cot inside a cooling shelter during a heatwave in Portland, Oregon, last year.
A man rests on a cot inside a cooling shelter during a heatwave in Portland, Oregon, last year. Photograph: Mathieu Lewis-Rolland/Reuters

Most of those who died in the Portland area were older, lived alone and did not have air conditioning. In response to the disaster, the city announced plans to require newly constructed subsidized housing to have air conditioning. A new Oregon law will require new housing built after April 2024 to have air conditioning in at least one room.

Forecasters do not expect temperatures to reach levels seen last summer, but officials are concerned about the anticipated number of consecutive hot days. Temperatures across western Oregon and Washington are predicted to be well above historic averages throughout the week. Overnight temperatures in the Pacific north-west may not go below the 70s, said Treena Jenson, the Portland warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service.

“It’s nothing we haven’t seen before in terms of the magnitude, but the duration of the event is fairly unusual,” said John Bumgardner, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Portland.

Portland and Seattle have both opened cooling centers in public buildings. Public transit in Portland will not turn away anyone headed to a cooling center and cannot pay their fare.

A man enters an encampment outfitted with a misting station
A man enters the ‘Right 2 Dream Too’ encampment outfitted with a misting station during a heatwave in Portland, Oregon, in 2021. Photograph: Mathieu Lewis-Rolland/Reuters

Multnomah county, which includes Portland, will open four overnight emergency cooling shelters starting on Tuesday where people can spend the night and bring pets. Officials have advised residents to frequently check on vulnerable people who live alone, are older and don’t have AC in their homes.

Jenny Carver, Multnomah county’s emergency manager for the department of county human services, said her work had focused on ensuring that cooling centers are “as low-barrier as we can make them”.

“We ask folks to just give a name and we don’t check any identification,” said Carver. “We make as many resources available as we can.”

Officials hope the outreach efforts will help people facing the greatest heat risks – including older people, those living alone, people with disabilities, members of low-income households without air conditioning and people without housing.

Meanwhile, a hot spell on the east coast appeared to have broken, with few areas east of the Mississippi River under heat advisories. Philadelphia hit 99F on Sunday before factoring in humidity. Newark, New Jersey, had its fifth consecutive day of 100F or higher, the longest such streak since records began in 1931. Boston also hit 100F, surpassing the previous daily record high of 98F (36.6C) set in 1933. Tuesday’s forecast highs in Philadelphia, New York and Boston were all in the mid-80s.





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