Dangerous Pacific Northwest heat wave suspected of seven deaths

BOYS, Idaho (AP) — Authorities in the Portland, Oregon region said they will keep shelters open until Sunday evening as a record heat wave likely brought scorching weather to the normally temperate region.

At least seven people have been suspected of dying from hyperthermia since the heat wave hit a week ago. The most recent suspected heat-related death was reported by Clackamas County officials on Saturday, Portland broadcaster KOIN-TV reported. County officials said the elderly man died at his home, where he did not have a working air conditioner. Six more hyperthermia deaths occurred earlier this week in Multnomah, Umatilla and Marion counties.

Jessica Mockert-Shibli, a spokeswoman for Multnomah County, said the county, the city of Portland, and other organizations will keep overnight cooling centers open until Sunday evening. About 250 people used the overnight stay Friday night, she said.

Temperatures in Portland have been in the triple digits all week, hitting a high of 102 degrees Fahrenheit (38.9 Celsius) on Tuesday.

The National Weather Service has issued an extreme heat warning for the Portland and Seattle, Washington regions until late Sunday evening, with temperatures expected to reach 103 degrees (39 degrees Celsius). Sean Weagle, an NWS meteorologist based in Portland, said on Saturday that the region likely set the record for the longest heat wave ever, with temperatures in excess of 95 degrees (35 degrees Celsius) for six consecutive days. A new record could be set on Sunday, Weagle said.

Temperatures remain abnormally high at night — only dropping to about 70 degrees (21°C) — making it difficult for residents to adequately cool their homes before sunrise, Weagle said. Many houses in the region do not have air conditioning.

“This is an increasingly common problem with our heatwaves, lack of recovery at night,” Weagle said. “It really affects people who don’t have air conditioning. It’s an “urban island effect” – downtown Portland has been so heavily built up that the concrete cools more slowly overnight than a rural valley or even a suburban area.”

Heatwaves in the region appear to be getting stronger overall, Weagle said. He expects relief from the hot weather to come in the middle of the week.

“Now it’s like Tuesday, we’ll start to get closer to normal, but still in the 80s and we should be just below normal temperatures by Wednesday,” he said.

The Seattle area was slightly cooler, but on Saturday for the fifth day in a row, temperatures were still above 90 degrees (32 degrees Celsius) compared to normal temperatures in the 70s.

Weagle said people should drink plenty of water, do their best to stay cool, and check on their neighbors, especially the elderly and those at greater risk of heat-related illnesses.

Climate change is causing longer heatwaves in the Pacific Northwest, a region where week-long heatwaves have historically been rare, climate experts say.

Residents and officials in the Northwest are trying to adjust to the likely reality of longer, hotter heatwaves following last summer’s deadly “heat dome” weather event, which led to record temperatures and deaths.

About 800 people died in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia during the heat wave that came in late June and early July. Temperatures at the time soared to an all-time high of 116 F (46.7 C) in Portland and broke warm records in cities across the region. Many of the dead were older and lived alone.

Copyright 2022 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed.

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