Pacific northwest heat wave shatters temperature records

By Neil Vigdor

A heat dome has enveloped the Pacific Northwest, driving temperatures to extreme levels — with temperatures well above 100 degrees in some spots — and creating dangerous conditions in a part of the country unaccustomed to oppressive summer weather or air-conditioning.

At Portland International Airport in Oregon, it reached 112 degrees Sunday. It was the highest temperature recorded there since historical records began in 1940, the National Weather Service said.

A high temperature of 108 degrees was recorded at the airport Saturday, surpassing the previous record of 107 degrees set in July 1965 and twice in August 1981, the service said.

The average high temperature for this time of year at the airport is about 73 degrees, said forecasters, who predicted that it would be even more stifling Monday.

Temperatures reached 102 degrees on Saturday at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, and on Sunday it reached 103, tying a record high.

“That’s now the first time in our climate record of two consecutive days above 100,” the National Weather Service said on Twitter. It said those readings included Seattle-area records dating to 1894.

“Goodnight cruel sauna — I mean, Seattle,” Maddie Kristell, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Seattle, posted on Twitter on Saturday night, along with a photo of two air conditioning units that she had running.

The National Weather Service issued an excessive heat warning for virtually all of Washington and Oregon, as well as sections of California, Idaho, Montana and Nevada.

The warning was to remain in effect until Monday night for much of Oregon and Washington, where state and local entities opened cooling centers for residents.

The meteorological anomaly, which forecasters attributed to an upper-level ridge of high pressure stalled over British Columbia, even led the National Park Service to warn hikers about how snow and ice are melting faster on Mount Rainier in Washington.

“Even higher elevations such as Paradise won’t escape the extreme heat hitting the PNW,” the national park said on Twitter.

The heat is expected to linger in areas farther east until at least the middle of the week, according to the National Weather Service. Its forecast office in Spokane, Washington, predicted high temperatures of at least 112 degrees from Sunday through Wednesday.

In preparation for the heat wave, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee suspended limits on the number of people who could be accommodated at cooling centers run by the government and by nonprofit groups in the state.

The limits had been put in place as part of public health emergency orders during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Seattle Library said Sunday morning that it was opening additional air-conditioned branches Sunday and Monday to provide people refuge from the heat.

The Oregon Health Authority announced Friday that it had also lifted limits on the number of people who could gather at swimming pools, movie theaters and shopping malls.

At the Holiday Inn Express & Suites in North Seattle, TV station KING 5 reported that the hotel’s air-conditioned rooms were fully booked this weekend, the first time since the pandemic began.

“It’s been a blessing,” Ron Oh, the hotel’s general manager, told the station.

Oh, board chairman of the Washington Hospitality Association, said the phone was ringing constantly with questions about room availability.

“It generally comes down to, ‘Oh, my God, it’s so hot, I need a place with air conditioning,’” he said.

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