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Pacific Northwest Bakes in Record-Setting Heat Wave

Pacific Northwest Bakes in Record-Setting Heat Wave

It was expected to reach 114 degrees in Portland, Ore., on Monday, even hotter than Sunday, when the airport recorded 112 degrees, the highest temperature since 1940, forecasters said.

Cooling off at the Salmon Street Springs fountain in Portland, Ore., on Sunday. The temperature reached 112 degrees, setting a record.
Credit…Mark Graves/The Oregonian, via Associated Press

Neil Vigdor

A heat dome has enveloped the Pacific Northwest, driving temperatures to extreme levels — with temperatures well above 100 degrees — and creating dangerous conditions in a part of the country unaccustomed to oppressive summer weather or air-conditioning.

At Portland International Airport in Oregon, it reached 112 degrees on Sunday. It was the highest temperature ever recorded there since historical records began in 1940, the National Weather Service said.

A high temperature of 108 degrees was recorded at the airport on Saturday, surpassing the previous record of 107 degrees set in July 1965 and twice in August 1981, the service said.

The average high temperature for this time of year at the airport is about 73 degrees, said forecasters, who predicted that it could hit a stifling 114 degrees in Portland on Monday.

Temperatures reached 102 degrees on Saturday at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, and on Sunday it reached 104, setting a record. Temperatures were expected to continue rising on Monday, with forecasters predicting a high of 107 degrees in Seattle and 113 degrees in the nearby cities of Kent, North Bend and Monroe.

“That’s now the first time in our climate record of two consecutive days above 100,” the National Weather Service in Seattle said on Twitter on Sunday. It said that included Seattle area records dating back to 1894.

“Goodnight cruel sauna — I mean, Seattle,” Maddie Kristell, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Seattle, wrote on Twitter on Saturday night, along with a photo of two air-conditioning units that she had running.


Temperatures hovered above 100 degrees Fahrenheit during an unprecedented heat wave in Portland, Oregon.
Credit…Maranie Staab/Reuters

The National Weather Service issued excessive heat warnings on Monday for much of Washington and Oregon, as well as for sections of California, Idaho and Nevada.

Last month the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration adjusted its “climate normals,” baseline data of temperature, rain, snow and other weather variables collected over three decades at thousands of locations across the country.

“We’re really seeing the fingerprints of climate change in the new normals,” Michael Palecki who manages the project at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, said when the normals were updated.

Last year tied 2016 as the hottest year on record, as global temperatures continued their relentless rise brought on by the emission of heat-trapping greenhouse gases.

The warning for much of Oregon and Washington, where state and local entities opened cooling centers, will remain in effect until Monday night.

The meteorological anomaly in the Pacific Northwest, which forecasters attributed to an upper-level ridge of high pressure stalled over British Columbia, even led the National Park Service to warn hikers about snow and ice are melting faster than normal on Mount Rainier in Washington.


Credit…Karen Ducey/Reuters

“Even higher elevations such as Paradise won’t escape the extreme heat hitting the PNW,” the national park said on Twitter.

The heat is expected to linger in areas farther east until at least the middle of the week, according to the National Weather Service. Its forecast office in Spokane, Wash., predicted high temperatures of at least 112 degrees from Sunday through Wednesday.

In preparation for the heat wave, Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington suspended limits on the number of people who could be accommodated at cooling centers run by the government and by nonprofit groups in the state.

The limits had been put in place as part of public health emergency orders during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Seattle Library said on Sunday morning that it was opening additional air-conditioned branches on Sunday and Monday to provide people refuge from the heat.

The Oregon Health Authority announced on Friday that it had also lifted limits on the number of people who could gather at swimming pools, movie theaters and shopping malls.


Credit…John Froschauer/Associated Press

At the Holiday Inn Express & Suites in North Seattle, the television station KING 5 reported that the hotel’s air-conditioned rooms were fully booked this weekend, the first time since the pandemic began.

“It’s been a blessing,” Ron Oh, the hotel’s general manager, told the station.

Mr. Oh, who is also the board chairman of the Washington Hospitality Association, said the phone was ringing constantly with questions about room availability.

“It generally comes down to, ‘Oh, my God, it’s so hot, I need a place with air-conditioning,’” he said.

Heather Murphy contributed reporting.