By Claire Rush
Portland, Ore. (AP) – In the sweltering heat, Matthew Carr spent his lunch break at a fountain in Portland, Oregon. The 57-year-old works as a garbage collector outside the city and had to find a way to cool down.
“It’s so hot,” Carr said. “I can just take my uniform off, jump in there with my shorts on for my break, and have a good time for 10 or 15 minutes.”
Temperatures soared to 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8 Celsius) in Oregon’s largest city on Tuesday. It is expected to be the hottest day of a summer spell that meteorologists believe will be unusually long for the Pacific Northwest, a region prone to such scorching weather. Rarely seen.
Seattle reported a new all-time high of 94 F (34.4 C) on July 26, breaking the previous record of 92 F (33.3 C) from 2018, according to the National Weather Service.
Elsewhere in Washington state, record daily temperatures were also recorded in Bellingham and the capital, Olympia, which experienced 90 F (32.2 C) and 97 F (36.1 C), respectively.
Oregon health officials said the number of people reporting heat-related illness to emergency departments has increased, and the number of people calling emergency services numbers for similar symptoms has increased.
“Daily heat-related illness visits are higher than expected statewide,” said Jonathan Moody, lead communications officer for the Oregon Health Authority’s public health division. There were 32 such visits to emergency departments Monday, compared with three to five a day before the heat wave began, he said.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown declared a state of emergency for much of the state, warning that extreme temperatures could cause utility shutdowns and transportation disruptions.
“With many parts of Oregon facing a severe heat wave, it is imperative that all levels of government have the resources they need to help keep Oregonians safe and healthy,” Brown said in a statement. Required.”
Portland officials have opened cooling centers in public buildings and misting stations in parks. TriMet, which operates public transportation in the Portland metropolitan area, will allow passengers who can’t afford a ride to the cooling centers for free.
Most of Portland’s trash companies started picking up early Tuesday morning, starting at 4 a.m. to protect drivers from the heat and health hazards. The preliminary rounds will likely continue until Friday morning.
Multnomah County, which includes Portland, plans to open four emergency cooling shelters starting Tuesday night so people who can’t cool themselves can spend the night. Multnomah County spokeswoman Kate Yzer said the locations can accommodate a total of 245 guests.
“We’re going to find a place for anyone who needs it,” Yeiser said, adding that the sites have a “no-turnaway policy.” He said the county may open an additional overnight center on Wednesday if demand is high.
Many libraries are extending their hours, staying open until 8 or 9 pm to give people more time to cool off.
As the U.S. Northwest warms, a warm spell appears to be breaking up along the East Coast, with some areas east of the Mississippi River under a heat advisory on Tuesday.
Philadelphia reached 99 degrees (37 Celsius) on Sunday before the humidity increased. Newark, New Jersey, marked five consecutive days of temperatures of 100 degrees or higher, the longest such streak since records began in 1931. Boston also hit 100 degrees, surpassing the previous daily record of 98 degrees (36.6 Celsius) set in 1933.
On Tuesday, highs peaked in the 80s in New York and Boston.
Residents and officials in the Northwest are trying to adjust to the potential reality of longer, hotter heat waves after last summer’s deadly “heatdome” weather phenomenon that sparked record temperatures and deaths.
In response, Oregon passed a law requiring all new residences built after April 2024 to install air conditioning in at least one room. The law already prevents landlords from installing cooling devices in their rental units to tenants in most cases.
Nearly 800 people died in late June and early July during the 2021 heat wave in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. Temperatures at that time reached a high of 116 degrees F (46.7 C) in Portland, breaking heat records for cities and towns across the region. Many of the dead were elderly and lived alone.
While temperatures aren’t expected to get this high this week, the expected number of hot days in a row has officials worried.
The National Weather Service has issued a severe heat warning for large parts of Oregon and Washington state, including Portland and Seattle, amid concerns that overnight temperatures won’t help residents cool down.
“The main reason for this warning is that the low temperatures are only in the 65 to 70 degree range, and the fact that this is such a long-duration event,” said Colby Newman, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Portland. .
Portland appears to be on track to “either tie or exceed” the previous heat wave record, Newman said. The record stands at six consecutive days at 95 degrees (35C) or higher, which has only been reached twice before.
Officials in Seattle and Portland issued air quality advisories Tuesday through Saturday, warning that smog could reach levels that could be unhealthy for sensitive groups.
Cooling sites are open in Seattle, Greater King County and throughout Western Washington.
In Portland, an emergency cooling shelter provided relief Tuesday for Rory Ludster, a veteran without housing, who described the heat as “uncomfortable.”
“I think these cooling shelters are a real good thing, that seniors really need them and all people really need them in this kind of heat,” Ludster said.
The 55-year-old man said he has been living in a tent on the road for the past two weeks. He described calling shelters every morning to find no open spots. Now, he will be able to spend the night at an emergency cooling site, where he is expected to stay “for a while.”
“I’ll be here as long as we can,” Ludster said.
AP photographer Craig Micheldeer contributed. Lisa Bowman contributed from Bellingham, Washington.
Claire Rush is a reporting core member for the Associated Press/U.S. Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on classified issues. Follow him on Twitter.