PORTLAND, Ore. – Scorching heat in the Pacific Northwest is now expected to last longer than forecasters originally predicted, putting parts of the normally temperate region on track to break records for the duration of heat waves.
“We’ve warmed up the forecast for the latter part of this week,” said David Bishop, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Portland, Oregon. His office is now forecasting up to 101 degrees Fahrenheit (38.3 Celsius) for Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Portland already reached 102 F (38.9 C) on Tuesday, a new record for the day, prompting the National Weather Service to extend an excessive heat warning for the city from Thursday into Saturday night.
Seattle on Tuesday also reported a new record daily high of 94 F (34.4 C).
The length of the heat wave puts Oregon’s largest city on track to tie its longest streak of six consecutive days of 95 F (35 C) or higher.
Climate change is fueling longer heat waves in the Pacific Northwest, a region where weekly heatwaves have historically been rare, according to climate experts.
Heat-related 911 calls in Portland have tripled in recent days, from about eight calls on Sunday to 28 calls on Tuesday, said Dan Douthit, spokesman for the city’s Bureau of Emergency Management. Most calls involve a medical response, Douthit added.
Multnomah County, which includes Portland, said there has been a spike in the number of people visiting emergency rooms for heat-related symptoms.
Emergency department visits “remained elevated as of Sunday,” the county said in a statement. “Over the past three days, hospitals have treated 13 people for heat illness when they would normally expect to see two or three.”
People working or playing sports outside, along with older people, are among those taken to emergency rooms, the statement added.
On Wednesday, the Oregon State Medical Examiner’s Office said at least two people died of suspected hyperthermia during the heat wave. One death occurred in Portland on Monday, the Multnomah County Coroner’s Office said.
The state medical examiner’s office said the heat-related death toll is preliminary and could change after further investigation. The official cause of death may not be confirmed for several months.
People in Portland’s iconic food cart industry are among those working outside. Many food trucks are closed as the sidewalks sizzle.
Rico Loverde, the chef and owner of the Monster Smash Burgers food cart, said the temperature inside his cart is usually 20 degrees hotter than the temperature outside, making it 120 F (48.9 C) at his business this week .
Loverde said he closes if it gets above 95 F (35 C) because his refrigerators overheat and shut down. Last week, even with slightly cooler temperatures in the mid-90s, Loverde suffered heat stroke from working in his cart for hours, he said.
“It hurts, it definitely hurts. I still pay my employees when we’re closed like that because they have to pay the bills too, but for a small business that’s not good,” he said Tuesday.
Multnomah County said its four emergency overnight cooling shelters were at half capacity Tuesday, with 130 people spending the night. But anticipating more demand, officials decided to expand the capacity of the four sites to accommodate nearly 300 people. Overnight shelters will remain open until at least Friday morning.
William Nonluecha, who lives in a tent in Portland, sought shade with friends as the temperature rose Wednesday afternoon. Nonluecha was less than a minute’s walk from a cooling shelter set up by local authorities, but didn’t know it was open. He said the heat in his tent was almost unbearable.
His friend Mel Taylor, who was homeless last year but now has transitional housing, said that during last summer’s record heat wave, a man in a tent near his died of heat exhaustion and no one realized it. He fears the same could happen this summer.
“He was in his tent for about a week and the smell, that’s how they knew he was dead,” Taylor said. “It’s sad.”
Residents and officials in the Northwest are trying to adjust to the likely reality of longer, hotter heat waves after last summer’s deadly “heat dome” weather phenomenon, which caused record temperatures and deaths.
About 800 people died in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia during a 2021 heat wave that hit in late June and early July. The temperature at the time soared to an all-time high of 116 F (46.7 C) in Portland and broke heat records for cities in the region. Many of the dead were older and lived alone.
Other regions of the US often experience temperatures of 100 degrees. But in regions like the Pacific Northwest, people aren’t as used to the heat and are more susceptible to it, said Craig Crandall, a professor of internal medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.
“There is a much greater risk for people in areas like the Northwest to have higher incidences of heat-related injury and death,” Crandall said.
Crandall said that people who are constantly exposed to heat have certain bodily adaptations that allow them to cool themselves more efficiently. A major response to acclimatization is an increase in the amount of sweat secreted by the sweat glands.
“The combination of not having air conditioning and not being exposed to heat and not having those adaptations” can put people in the Northwest at greater risk during heat waves than in warmer parts of the country, he said.
Portland officials opened cooling centers in public buildings and installed misting stations in parks. TriMet, which runs public transit in the Portland metro area, offers free rides to cooling centers for passengers who can’t afford to pay.
Officials in Seattle and Portland issued air quality advisories Tuesday that are expected to last through Saturday.
Further south, the National Weather Service issued a heat advisory Wednesday for western Nevada and northeastern California, which is expected to last from late Thursday morning through Saturday night. Across the region, near-record daytime temperatures will range from 99 to 104 degrees F (37.22 to 40 C).
AP reporter Jillian Flaxus and AP photographer Craig Micheldeer contributed from Portland, Oregon, and AP reporter Gabe Stern contributed from Carson City, Nevada.
Claire Rush is a corps member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. America Report is a national nonprofit program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercover issues. Follow her Twitter.
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The scorching heat wave in the US Northwest is expected to last longer
Source link The scorching heat wave in the US Northwest is expected to last longer