Area handles the heat wave with aplomb
Despite the weather pattern that engulfed the Willamette Valley in triple-digit temperatures for three days last week, reports from various community groups and government agencies indicate that the Newberg area endured the heat wave about as well as one could have hoped.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), temperatures broke the 100-degree barrier in Newberg each day Aug. 1-3, hitting a high of 106 degrees Aug. 2, but both Providence Newberg Medical Center and Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue reported Monday that the level of heat related illnesses and minor fires did not rise above normal levels.
According to TVF&R Public Information Officer Stefan Myers, although the number of calls received on heat-related illnesses and minor brush fires in Newberg were somewhat higher than they had been so far this year, they was no significant difference compared to the same stretch from last year.
Although TVF&R did report that hot and windy conditions did contribute to incidents elsewhere, including an air conditioner explosion that eventually spread to multiple houses, no major incidents occurred in Newberg.
TVF&R Captain Alex Haven said residents should be credited for heeding the advice of medical and public safety officials in such extreme conditions, but with temperatures set to remain in the 90s this week, still urges people to remain cautious.
"I think people have been pretty smart so far with the hunkering down and not using potential ignition sources," Myers added. "It's gone pretty well. But as we've see in other parts of our district, when it does go wrong, it goes very wrong."
According to PNMC spokesman Mike Antrim, local hospital staff had a similarly subdued experience. He reported that emergency room staff at Providence locations around the metro area did provide treatment for a variety of heat-related illnesses, but said PNMC did not see a spike in patients.
"Overall, our clinical teams said they were surprised they did not see more cases because it was so hot for so many days," Antrim said. "They expect this means people took the heat warnings to heart and took care of themselves and others around them."
Elsewhere, Chehalem Park and Recreation District did cancel evening youth football practices last week, which happened to be the only outdoor athletic activity on its docket, but this week is set to be much busier.
Sports and recreation supervisor Mark Martin said CPRD uses a heat index service provided by the OSAA, which gives specific guidelines for local athletic activities according to the heat index for a given zip code, and noted that youth football players were still able to participate in CPRD's concussion pre-testing program last week.
"Last week it was saying, 'Forget it. Don't go outside and if you're inside, you better have an activity with air conditioning,'" Martin said. "We go off of that for football but also most of our programs, too."
The Newberg Farmers Market also cancelled its regularly scheduled event Aug. 1, but otherwise it appears that most organizations and businesses in the area did not experience significant interruptions.
"We were lucky that the heat missed the Old Fashioned Festival," Martin said. "It could have played havoc on the festival because I remember a few years ago it was pretty warm and the park was kind of desolate."
According to project manager Jim McMaster, even construction of CPRD's new aquatic center was relatively unaffected aside from cutting off work an hour or so early on a couple of days.
"It wasn't too bad, to tell you the truth, underneath the roof structure," McMaster said. "So we were working on setting up forms, pulling off forms, electrical and the plumber was on his line. It was what we would have done anyway."
Not surprisingly, CPRD did see a surge of visitors just a few yards away at the existing pool, according to aquatics coordinator Tara Franks.
That included a camp group that utilized the facility on Wednesday afternoon, which quadrupled the regular number of visitors for a weekday afternoon, and an especially busy Thursday evening, which saw double the normal amount of patrons.
"We had almost 40 senior swimmers on Friday," Franks added. "Seniors swim was definitely up. Seniors were coming to the pool to cool off."
Although it hasn't had any break in operations, Franks did note that the aquatic center did receive a surge of phone calls to see if the pool was still open during construction of the new facility.
"A lot of people don't know that," Franks said. "All activities are still scheduled, we just have parking issues and even those haven't been bad."
A wide-ranging effort was also undertaken to establish several "cooling stations" around town where members of the public would be welcome to cool off in an air-conditioned facility.
Providence Community Connections took a lead role in recruiting several local churches to participate and partnered with city of Newberg Community Engagement Specialist Rosa Olivares, who helped get the word out with alerts and a post on the city website.
Several public facilities, including the Chehalem Senior Center, the Newberg Public Library and the Chehalem Cultural Center, participated as well, but all reported minimal use by the public.
Library director Leah Griffith said that traffic at the library did not increase much, but that those who were there for regular business did tend to stay a bit longer, with similar reports also coming from the senior center, which stayed open four hours later than normal Wednesday through Friday.
Deana Vandenhoek of Providence Community Connections, who recruited volunteers to help staff the senior center during those extended hours, was still impressed with how the community rallied to pitch in after she put out a call on Tuesday afternoon.
"I was really blown away by how quickly people responded," she said. "I actually had to turn like six volunteers away. That kind of gave me goosebumps when I got to work and started reading my email."