Less than two months after seeing its highest temperature on record, 116F, Portland, Oregon was just one city facing more grueling temperatures from yet another intense heatwave scorching the Pacific northwest again this week. Temperatures at the Portland Airport reached 103F on Friday, setting yet another record for a region where the temperature barely reached into the 90s less than a decade ago.
Further north in Washington State, the town of Bellingham hit 100F for the first time. Seattle reached highs in the 90s. Much of the region was under an excessive heat warning through Saturday, with restaurants, food trucks, and coffee shops closing early for the day. It being Portland, they at least left notes of apology on their doors, citing the heatwave. As the temperatures climbed in southeast Portland on Friday, streets were quieter than normal, thanks to a haze of smoke from nearby wildfires which covered the sky; forecasters said the smoke could help keep temperatures on Friday and Saturday slightly lower than predicted, but residents without central air who needed to keep their windows shut against the unhealthy breathing conditions had to find creative ways to stay cool.
Portland typically sees mild summers with temperatures in the eighties in August. Central air-conditioning is a rarity in a region used to the temperate summers. The heatwave, the second of the summer, is particularly dangerous in a region unaccustomed to such extreme heat. Ninety-six Oregon residents died in the June heatwave; 60 were Portland residents. The occurrence of that heatwave would have been virtually impossible without human-caused climate change, a detailed scientific analysis has found.
In fact, Portland ranks third among the least air-conditioned US cities – about 70% of homes have air conditioning. Oregon’s governor, Kate Brown, and the Portland mayor, Ted Wheeler, declared a state of emergency earlier in the week due to the heat, and officials opened cooling centers across the city and state.
In 2020, a study from Portland State University showed, for the first time, that areas prone to excessive heat are disproportionately populated by low-income communities and people of color, due to racist housing policies that stretch back more than a century. pic.twitter.com/Ee4D0lcTWY
— The Oregonian (@Oregonian) August 11, 2021
Forecast confidence continues to increase for an intense heat wave beginning on Tue. or Wed. and lasting through at least Friday. Fairly poor overnight relief is also expected, so heat exhaustion and heat stroke will be a real concern for those without access to a cool building. pic.twitter.com/YOJdtjzcQa
— NWS Portland (@NWSPortland) August 8, 2021
Temperatures are expected to be in the low to mid-90s throughout the Pacific Northwest next week as well.
— NWS Portland (@NWSPortland) August 11, 2021