The scorching heat spell in the Pacific Northwest is now expected to last longer than forecasters had initially predicted, setting parts of the normally temperate region on course to break heat wave duration records.
As temperatures hit a daily record 102 degrees Fahrenheit (38.9 Celsius) in Portland, Oregon, on Tuesday, the National Weather Service extended the excessive heat warning for the city from Thursday through Saturday evening.
“For the next several days through Saturday we’re going to be within a few degrees of 100 every day,” said Colby Neuman, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Portland. Temperatures are forecast to soar to 101 (38.3 C) again on Friday.
The duration of the heat wave puts Portland “in the running” for tying its longest streak of six consecutive days of 95 degrees or higher, Neuman said.
Climate change is fueling longer heat waves in the Pacific Northwest, a region where weeklong heat spells were historically rare, according to climate experts.
Elsewhere, Seattle on Tuesday also reported a new record daily high of 94 F (34.4 C). The heat spell was forecast to last into Saturday in western Washington as well.
Multnomah County, which includes Portland, said there has been an uptick in the number of people calling emergency services numbers and visiting emergency departments for heat-related symptoms.
“Emergency medical services responded to 361 calls Tuesday, about 25% higher than a typical summer day,” Multnomah County said in a statement, adding that “13 of those were heat-related.”
Emergency department visits “have remained elevated since Sunday,” the statement said. “In 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 exercising outside, along with older people, were among those taken to emergency departments, the statement added.
People in Portland’s iconic food cart industry are among those who work outside. Many food trucks have shut down as sidewalks sizzle.
Rico Loverde, the chef and owner of the food cart Monster Smash Burgers, said the temperature inside his cart is generally 20 degrees hotter than the outdoor temperature, making it 120 degrees F inside his tiny business this week.
Loverde said he closes down if it reaches above 95 degrees F because his refrigerators overheat and shut down. Last week, even with slightly cooler temperatures in the mid-90s, Loverde got 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 this because they have to pay the bills too, but for a small business it’s not good,” he said Tuesday.
Multnomah County said its four emergency overnight cooling shelters were at half capacity on Tuesday with 130 people spending the night. But anticipating more demand, officials have decided to expand capacity at the four sites to accommodate nearly 300 people. The overnight shelters will remain open at least through Friday morning.
An overnight cooling shelter provided relief on Tuesday for Rory Lidster, a veteran without housing who described the heat as “uncomfortable.” The 55-year-old said he has been living in a tent on the street for two weeks.
“I think these cooling shelters are a real good thing, that the elderly really need them and that all people really need them in this kind of heat,” Lidster said.
Portland officials have opened cooling centers in public buildings and installed misting stations in parks. TriMet, which operates public transportation in the Portland metro area, is offering free rides to cooling centers for passengers who cannot afford to pay.
Many libraries are extending their hours, staying open until 8 or 9 p.m. to allow people more time to cool off.
Most of Portland’s garbage companies began earlier pick-ups on Tuesday morning, starting as early as 4 a.m. to reduce drivers’ exposure to heat and health risks. The early rounds will likely continue through Friday morning.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown declared a state of emergency across much of the state, warning the extreme temperatures may cause utility outages and transportation disruptions.
Residents and officials in the Northwest have been trying to adjust to the likely reality of longer, hotter heat waves following last summer’s deadly “heat dome” weather phenomenon that prompted record temperatures and deaths.
In response, Oregon passed a law requiring all new housing built after April 2024 to have air conditioning installed in at least one room. The law already prohibits landlords in most cases from restricting tenants from installing cooling devices in their rental units.
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 smashed heat records in cities and towns across the region. Many of those who died were elderly and lived alone.
Officials in Seattle and Portland have issued air quality advisories from Tuesday expected to last through Saturday, warning that smog may reach levels that could be unhealthy for sensitive groups.
Claire Rush, The Associated Press