Scorching temperatures are still sweeping around the world, and this time the heat is headed to the historically temperate Pacific Northwest.
Temperatures in the Portland metro area are expected to peak at a little over 101 Fahrenheit (38 Celsius) and will hover around the 90s Fahrenheit for the next few days, according to the National Weather Service. Yakima, Washington is expected to see temperatures between 102 F (38.8 C) and 108 F (42.2 C) this week, according to a NWS forecast for the area. Hospitals across the area are preparing for what they predict will be an increase in patients struggling with heat injury, KOMO News reports.
“Daytime highs are forecast to soar into the triple digits in the Columbia Basin and central Oregon… Daytime records highs will be challenged each day as well,” the National Weather Service wrote in this week’s forecast discussion.
Officials throughout the region are worried for residents who don’t have air conditioning, those experiencing homelessness, and those who are vulnerable due to age or health issues. Oregon’s Department of Emergency Management is working to open public misting stations and cooling centers in public buildings to help people stay safe during the high temperatures if they cannot do so at home, The Guardian reported.
Urgency in this week’s preparations are fueled in part by last year’s deadly Pacific Northwest heat wave. Wenatchee, Washington was not ready to handle mind-boggling 145 degrees Fahrenheit ground temps late last June. Many homes in places like Oregon do not have central air conditioning, and people scrambled to buy fans and ACs in hopes of getting some sort of relief from the heat. Later analysis found that the 2021 heat wave baked the region so badly that it became a mass casualty event. Oregon officials found that about 107 people died as a result of the heat.
The world’s top climate scientists last year found that dangerous heat waves that previously occurred once every decade are now occurring every two to three years, while extreme heat that used to strike once every 50 years is now likely to happen once a decade thanks to climate change.
This summer’s heat has already been deadly in Europe. According to public heath research organization the Carlos III Institute, Spain recorded 1,047 deaths linked to record-breaking heat in the country in mid-July. Late last week, the World Health Organization confirmed that Portugal and Spain saw “more than 1,700 needless deaths” due to this month’s heat.
And the record temperatures are messing with infrastructure, too: The recent heat wave in the United Kingdom literally melted the runway at the RAF Brize Norton Royal Air Force base, and heat in the Bay Area last month warped metal train tracks, derailing a train with passengers in it.