Northwest heat wave: Worst is over, but it's still plenty hot
Posted August 3
Updated August 4
The Pacific Northwest was sweltering through another round of miserable weather Thursday as smoke from wildfires hung in the air and already-scorching temperatures kept climbing.
The city of Portland, Oregon, could reach or break its all-time high of 107 degrees (1965 and 1981), the National Weather Service said. Portland hit 105 degrees Thursday night, breaking a 65-year-old record of 99 degrees for the day.
The heat makes life difficult for people like Food Front Cooperative Grocery manager Jeff Hough, who told CNN affiliate KPTV the store's coolers are shutting down and it's difficult even to keep the doors closed.
"The front door, the rubber expanded, so it's not shutting. It got so hot the door won't shut," he told the station.
Seattle also broke a daily record. The city reached 91 degrees on Thursday, breaking the previous high of 90 degrees from August 3, 1988.
Some relief in sight?
Thursday is expected to be the worst day in the heat wave, but temperatures are expected to drop a bit over the weekend.
Some 15 million people in the Pacific Northwest are under excessive heat warnings and advisories. That creates "a dangerous situation in which heat illnesses are possible," the National Weather Service said.
Smoke from wildfires in the Northwest has spread a haze over the region, making air quality dangerous for people with asthma or breathing problems. The state of Oregon issued an air pollution advisory effective through Tuesday because of the heat and smoke from the wildfires.
Commuting is more difficult in Portland. The metro area's public transit system, TriMet, is having service problems because of the heat and computer glitches caused by a system upgrade that went awry, CNN affiliate KATU reported.
TriMet is offering free rides Thursday, but the MAX light rail trains will slow because of excessive heat, and WES commuter train service probably will be suspended Thursday afternoon, with shuttle buses serving WES stations, TriMet said. "Expect major delays," the transit service said on its website.
Uber and Lyft are offering discounted rides to city cooling centers, KATU reported.
Late Wednesday, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown declared a state of emergency, saying the "hot, dry and windy" conditions are increasing the threat of wildfires. The declaration allows the Oregon National Guard to assist state agencies with firefighting.
Desperate times, desperate measures
A little relief may be in sight. The high temperatures in Portland should drop to 97 on Friday, 90 on Saturday and 95 on Sunday, the weather service said. Seattle should see highs of 91 on Friday and 89 on Saturday and Sunday.
That's still way above the average high temperature for August 3 -- 82 degrees in Portland, 79 in Seattle.
The heat has settled in over a region where many homes don't have air conditioning. Only one-third of Seattle residents have it, while Portland's number is about 70%. Portions of Oregon are a good bit lower.
Deadly heat waves to become more common
Many Portlanders took to social media to document some of the strange and outrageous ways they are keeping cool, including sticking their feet in a cooler of ice.
It's so hot that Scoop PDX, an ice cream business, shut down its food truck Wednesday and Thursday for worker safety.
"When its 105 degrees, you don't want to go outside to get ice cream," Deb Reitenour, the operations manager, said. "Especially here in the Pacific Northwest, we are not used to the heat. We can handle rain, but we are not so great with this amount of sun with no break."
The truck will be back in business on Friday, she said.
"It looks like the weather forecast, if it holds, it will go below 100 tomorrow, knock on wood," Reitenour said.
One Portland library started offering free water bottles to its patrons -- with "no overdue fines!"
CNN affiliate KIRO in Seattle reported numerous cooling centers were open in the city.
Jillian Henze, spokeswoman for the Seattle Hotel Association, said those without air conditioning who are seeking relief will find the supply of rooms scarce. "It is our busiest season of the year; we got cruise ships and summer travel, and rooms are booked up way in advance," she said.
Related: Hot car deaths reached record numbers in July
What's causing the heat?
A ridge formed in the jet stream, forcing the stronger winds in the upper atmosphere well into Canada, allowing for clear skies in the Pacific Northwest and the temperatures to rise to extreme levels. Friday into the weekend, the jet stream will flatten, allowing for temperatures to ease near normal.
Until then, police and agencies are ensuring those most vulnerable receive help. Portland police on Tuesday tried to get people who usually live on the streets into shelters or cooling centers, CNN affiliate KPTV said.
"They really appreciate it because, literally, they are here, they don't want to walk around because it's hot out," Officer Ryan Engweiler told the station. "Just by us driving around giving them the water, giving them the information."
Medford, in the south of Oregon, was the hottest spot in the state Wednesday with 112 degrees.
California also baked. Death Valley's average temperature in July was 107.4, breaking the previous record of 107.2 set back in 1917. It was Death Valley's hottest month ever.