The National Weather Service in Portland, Oregon warned that the worst-case scenario could see temperatures reaching 111 F (44 C), in certain parts of western Oregon on Friday. This warning comes before there is a weekend cooling down. Temperatures will likely rise to 100 F (38 C), with temperatures peaking at 105 F (40.5 C) Thursday.
These are staggering numbers for a normally temperate region. They would also break all-time records if it wasn't for the June heat wave, Tyler Kranz, meteorologist said. While Seattle will be cooler that Portland with temperatures in the mid 90s, it still has the potential to break records. Many people in Seattle, just like Oregon, don't have air conditioner.
People will often say that it doesn't matter if it's 106 degrees or 108 degrees. It can get this hot in Arizona all year," Kranz stated. "You can't really put us in the same category as the desert Southwest."
Gov. Governor Cooling centers are being opened by the city and county governments. They also have misting stations installed in public buildings. Public library hours are extended and bus fare waivers for those who go to cooling centers are offered. The state's helpline will provide tips and information on staying safe as well as a route to the closest cooling shelter.
Portland emergency officials sent out an alert to all landlines Wednesday. Those who had signed up for public alerts on their phones received a text message.
He said, "We don’t know how hot it will get. But we’re planning for the worst-case scenario."
Back-to-back heat wave and a dry summer are causing havoc in a region that sees summer highs hovering around the 70s and 80s. Both the heat and a historic drought across the American West reflect climate change that makes weather more extreme in the historically temperate region.
The wake-up call came in the form of hundreds of deaths caused by the June heat in Washington, Oregon and British Columbia. It was virtually impossible without human-caused climate change, a scientific analysis found.
Officials in Oregon claim that at least 83 people died from heat-related illnesses. The hot weather is being investigated for 33 additional deaths. Washington state has reported more than 100 heat-related deaths. British Columbia officials claim that hundreds of "sudden, unexpected deaths" are likely to be due to the high temperatures.
Vivek Shandas from Portland State University, who is a professor of climate adaptation, stated that the toll revealed huge blind spots in emergency planning in an area not used to dealing with high temperatures.
Oregon's death toll was high because most of the victims were elderly, infirm, and isolated. Many were also unable or unwilling to travel to cooling centers.
Call center staff were unavailable during peak heat. This meant that hundreds of callers ended up stuck on a voicemail menu without a prompt for heat-related assistance. Portland's famous light-rail train was also cut off to reduce strain on power grids, eliminating an option for residents with low income seeking relief.
"We knew it was coming a week ahead of time. Shandas asked, "What would happen if an earthquake were to strike us a week ahead of time?" Shandas said, "This is the type of thinking we should be aligned with."
Even younger residents were affected by the heat in June, and they feared for this week's scorching temperatures.
Katherine Morgan, 27, lives in an apartment on her third floor without air conditioning. She can't afford a window unit with the money she earns working as a hostess and at a bookshop.
It was a high of 112 F (44 C) at her apartment in June. She took cold showers, drank water and sat still in front of a fan for hours.
Morgan, who doesn’t own a car, became ill after she walked 20 minutes to get to work at 106 F (41 C) heat. Instead of risking it again, she took the next two days off. She said that the heat from the sidewalk felt like it was "cooking" her ankles.
She'll be walking to work this week as temperatures are likely to rise again.
Morgan stated, "All my friends and me knew climate change was real. But it's becoming really scary because it was slowly getting hotter -- and it suddenly got very hot, really quickly."