A heat wave that has enveloped much of the country descends on Portland on Monday, promising highs near 100 degrees for the next five days. Local officials issued emergency declarations over the weekend, warning that overnight lows would remain as warm as they’ve been at any time in the past decade—for a longer period.
As WW reported last week, the danger posed by an extended heat wave is warm overnight temperatures—which don’t allow relief for people whose health conditions make high temperatures more difficult to endure.
Multnomah County health officials now warn that temperatures could remain above 70 degrees for several nights this week—most likely Tuesday and Wednesday nights. Portland has only seen lows of 70 or higher six nights in the past 10 years, county officials said.
Afternoons will be rough, too. The National Weather Service’s Portland office says the Willamette Valley is facing a 25% chance each day Tuesday through Thursday of temperatures above 105 degrees Fahrenheit. “Warning conditions are more likely to be met on Tuesday, when PDX will have a 60% chance for seeing triple digits,” writes Jon Bumgardner of the National Weather Service.
It’s been 13 months since a heat dome killed 69 county residents, a climate disaster that Portland-area officials vowed to learn from. This week’s forecast presents a high-stakes test of that pledge.
Multnomah County announced Sunday morning that it would open cooling centers across the region as early as Tuesday—but has yet to say where. County library branches will remain open until 8 pm this week. Both the county and a nonprofit, Verde, awarded grants by the Portland Clean Energy Benefits Fund, have pledged to install air conditioning units in the homes of low-income people.
That’s an especially crucial protection: A recent report showed all but 10 of the people who died in 116-degree heat last summer were living without AC units.
County officials said the Department of Human Services was working through the weekend to install the units in the homes of seniors and people with disabilities.
The county purchased 180 units this spring. As of Saturday, it had installed 92 of them.