Extended heatwave could have Portland sizzling at 100 or above for 4 days

The exterior of a building with blue awnings.  In front of it, a sign says "Cooling center"

A high-pressure system will sink in beginning Sunday, bringing in hot air and higher temperatures into the Pacific Northwest, the National Weather Service said.The Oregonian


It’s about to get very hot, Portland.

Temperatures in inland parts of the state will likely soar next week past 100, the highest they’ve been this year.

The National Weather Service says a high-pressure system will sink in beginning Sunday, bringing hot air into the Pacific Northwest for an extended hot spell. Forecast models suggest that temperatures will reach 90 degrees in the Willamette Valley Sunday afternoon. Current probabilities are showing a 50 to 60% chance of that happening.

Models are not clear how high temperatures will get on Monday and which day next week will be the hottest. They predict that temperatures will top out in the mid 90s to the low 100s Tuesday to Friday, with Wednesday or Thursday looking like the hottest day in Portland next week.

Current probabilities also show a 10 to 20% chance of temperatures next week reaching 105 for most locations in the Willamette Valley and Columbia River Gorge.

And the lows are expected to remain high in the Portland and Vancouver metro area, with overnight temperatures likely struggling to drop to 65 Monday to Thursday. Models show a 40% chance of nighttime lows remaining 70 degrees or warmer at Portland International Airport.

The last time heat stuck around in Portland for at least three days was a weekend in late June, when temperatures peaked to 99 in the metro area. Multnomah County officials said then the weather didn’t meet the threshold for opening cooling centers.

Officials have not made a decision to open the centers or extend library branch hours, said Chris Voss, Multnomah County’s emergency management director. That decision likely will come Sunday morning.

“We don’t want to activate and then open up all these locations and suddenly find ourselves in a situation where it’s just not very warm,” he said.

Multnomah County looks at several factors to determine opening centers, Voss said, including the weather service’s heat index, nighttime lows, humidity and air quality.

Clackamas County also has not made the decision to open cooling centers, officials said.

“Our partners will be checking on people who live outside to make sure they know where to escape the heat,” Clackamas County spokesperson Jessie Kirk said in a message to The Oregonian/OregonLive.

In Washington County, several cooling centers will open with varying hours depending on high temperatures, according to county spokesperson Mary Sawyers.

In Clark County, officials are urging residents to take precautions with the heat spell. The county’s Regional Emergency Services Agency has made a list of cooling centers open. Officials said in a statement Friday that additional sites may be added.

While temperatures are not forecast to exceed last year’s heat dome, which set a record of 116 at Portland International Airport, health officials are looking to avoid a similar fate when 69 people in Multnomah County died from the heat in late June last year. Three more people in the county also died of excessive heat in August outside the dates of the heat dome.

A majority of those who died were older, lived alone and lived in multifamily buildings, according to a county report. About 78% of households in the metro area have air conditioning, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Housing Survey from 2019.

To prepare for the heat this summer, Multnomah County officials developed a list earlier this year of 292 multifamily buildings that meet specific criteria. The purpose being to establish relationships with property owners and managers to help out in times of extreme weather.

Officials said that included “posting the locations of cooling centers, posting information about signs and symptoms of heat illness and then if need be, doing some wellness checks.”

Among the criteria for their list: If the buildings were located in urban heat islands where concrete, asphalt and building design can heat the environment and if they had a higher proportion of people of color, people living alone and older and low-income residents.

“Before the heat dome last summer, deaths from hyperthermia were virtually unheard of in Multnomah County,” said Brendon Haggerty, the interim program supervisor of the healthy homes and communities team for the county Health Department.

Of the 292 buildings the county attempted to reach in late June, 224 are west of Interstate 205 and 68 are east of the interstate, Haggerty said. He said the county reached 82 building owners or managers, which comprises more than 1,400 apartment units.

He said the county didn’t have staff that it could readily deploy to check on residents, one reason why they’re working with property managers and affordable housing providers like Home Forward.

Volunteers and county staff asked owners or managers questions about whether their buildings had air conditioning, if they had common space with air conditioning, if that space has bathrooms, and if they check on residents, said Jenny Carver, an emergency manager for the county’s Human Services Department.

Of the building owners or managers callers spoke with, 23% said their apartment units had air conditioning, Haggerty said.

Haggerty said about 19% of owners or managers answered all their questions, but a third of them, who were reached, asked for additional information about county resources for heat events that they could share with residents.

The main thing, health officials said, is for people to check on family and friends and know the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Here’s where people can go for help

Cooling centers: Clark County has a map of places to cool down. Multnomah County has a page on their website to check when cooling centers are open. Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties have a map or list of places to cool down.

Call 211: The emergency hotline helps answer questions for the public. During last year’s heat wave, the hotline wasn’t operating over the weekend of the late June heat wave and callers were met with a confusing list of options.

The hotline is now a 24/7 service.

“Last year was a year of major learnings as a result of the heat dome,” said Dan Herman, the CEO of 211info, the nonprofit that runs the hotline.

The hotline and the website, 211info.org, will “feature really prominently the number to push for extreme heat,” he said.

Herman also has approved overtime for staff to help out with additional emergency calls this time.

“It could be that our core staff of 24/7 gets overwhelmed, you just want to be prepared,” he said.

If 211 doesn’t work, people should call 1-866-698-6155 or go to the 211info website. Herman said people could text 898211 or download the 211info mobile app on their smart phone.

People can call 211 to find cool spaces closest to them, learn if cooling centers are open and get transportation support.

TriMet rides: If the county decides to declare a state of emergency, TriMet will offer free rides to reach cooling centers to those who can’t afford a ticket, according to TriMet spokesperson Tia York.

Those taking advantage of the offer are asked to let their bus operator know when they board.

York warns that if temperatures do reach 100 as expected, MAX trains will run at slower speeds and that passengers should plan ahead and leave extra time.

Extreme heat tips

  • Postpone outdoor activities.
  • If you’re outside, limit outdoor activity, avoid direct sunlight and wear sunscreen.
  • Close your shades or blinds to block sunlight passing through windows in your home.
  • When temperatures begin to fall slightly at night, open windows to let cool air in.
  • If you’re cooling off in the water, wear a life jacket and be aware of cold shock, which can cause dramatic changes in breathing, heart rate and blood pressure. While it may be hot outside, officials warn that the water in lakes, streams or oceans may be cold.

-- Zaeem Shaikh, @zaeemshake; Austin De Dios, @AustinDeDios