Hotter than hot heatwave comes to Columbia County
The heat wass here — and it's a doozy.
Portland metro residents drew the curtains, bought up nearly every fan and air conditioning unit in stock and headed toward any source of water they could find over the weekend, as high temperatures in the triple digits led to a record-breaking week in Washington County and across the region.
Portland International Airport saw a record high of 116 degrees Fahrenheit on Monday, June 28, the third day in a row that the National Weather Service recorded Portland's warmest temperature ever.
Prior to this week's heatwave, the highest temperature ever recorded at PDX was 107, set in 1965, but Saturday saw a high of 108 degrees and Sunday, 112 degrees before Monday's all-time high.
By Tuesday, temperatures had abated slightly, with a week-long forecast in the 90s.
The National Weather Service and public agencies across the state warned about the threat of heat exhaustion and heat stroke for pets and people without access to an indoor area with air conditioning, especially for those who are over age 65 and children up to age 4.
That danger caused cities and local governments to heel-turn from pandemic-related restrictions to providing opportunities for people to get out of the sun.
The Oregon Health Authority lifted all capacity limits on swimming pools, indoor malls and movie theaters in response to the heat wave — as well as on public transit and at cooling centers. TriMet announced that no one would be turned away for lack of fare if they need to stay cool inside the bus or train, but then canceled MAX service due to high temperatures as the weekend continued.
Beaverton and Hillsboro libraries extended their hours to allow more people time to escape the sun, and the Washington County Department of Health and Human Services said residents should visit indoor shopping malls, movie theaters and other indoor entertainment and dining venues to get some relief from the heat of the day.
"I'm delighted with the city that they're treating me like this," Tigard resident Nancy Budrow said while sipping water at a cooling center in Tigard on Monday.
Budrow was one of many people quietly reading or relaxing in the air conditioned space. She spent the time writing letters to family and friends.
"I've never had air conditioning," she said. "I thought I would never need it."
While experts say it's nearly impossible to draw a direct link between localized weather and global climate change, those who study the matter are already sounding alarms bells about the historic weather. If you think this is bad, they say, just wait until 2030.
"Since 1975, there have been fewer than 25 days with temperatures above 100°F in Portland — that averages out to less than one day per year," said Kristy Dahl, a senior climate scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists. "It's clear that the Eye of Sauron has turned to the Pacific Northwest."
Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue and other local agencies enacted a high fire danger burn ban earlier this week, which remains in effect.
Cassandra Ulven, public affairs chief for TVF&R, said people should be aware of both the elevated fire risk and the risk of heat-related illness.
"I think we're all still experiencing collective fear and worry after last year's (wildfire) season," Ulven said. More than 1 million acres burned across the state last fall in what became the worst year for Oregon wildfires.
Ulven encouraged people to check in on neighbors and relatives who may be especially vulnerable during heatwaves. Not all homes in Washington County have air conditioning, and older adults are especially prone to being affected by intense heat.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports more than 700 people die each year from extreme heat, with people age 65 and older at increased risk of heat-related illness or death.
While the worst of the heat wave is over, Washington County authorities are hoping residents will continue to be mindful of the summer weather and be ready for the next major heat wave.
n Avoid using fans as your primary cooling device especially when it gets extremely hot inside. Instead, mist yourself with a spray bottle, and then use the fan to get the cooling benefits of evaporation.
n Drink plenty of fluids even if you don't feel thirsty. Water is best. Limit sugary drinks, caffeine and alcohol.
n Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing and sunscreen.
n Exercise in the early morning when it's cooler.
n Avoid strenuous activity in the heat of the day.
n Take cool showers or baths.
n Close your blinds and curtains to keep sunlight out.
n Keep an eye on the temperature, and open your windows late at night or first thing in the morning to let some cooler air in. Then close up again to keep the cooler air inside.
n Get a baby pool or play in a sprinkler.
n Avoid using your stove/oven or doing laundry.
n Eat small, light meals.
n Never leave children or pets in cars.
n Wear a lifejacket and take other safety precautions in rivers and lakes.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.