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huffpost – Historic heat wave blows in northwest as wildfire risks soar

PORTLAND, Oregon (AP) – The Pacific Northwest suffocated Friday and braced for even warmer weather throughout the weekend as a historic heat wave hit Washington and Oregon, with temperatures in many areas expected to reach 30 degrees above normal.

Extreme and dangerous heat was set to break all-time records in towns and villages from eastern Washington State to Portland and southern Oregon, as concerns grew over the risk of fire in forest in an area already experiencing crippling and prolonged drought.

Seattle is expected to exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) over the weekend and in Portland, Ore., Meteorologists said the thermometer could rise to 108 F (42 C) by Sunday, breaking an all-time high of 107 F (42 C) set in 1981. Exceptionally warm weather was expected to continue into the next week over much of the region.

Seattle only hit 100 F three times in recorded history, the National Weather Service said, and there was a chance it could eclipse the record 103 F (39 C) on Monday.

“If you keep a written list of the records that will fall, you might need a few pages by the start of next week,” NWS Seattle tweeted, announcing that the city had already tied a record for the longest Friday. low in the morning. Temperature.

The extremely hot weather comes a week after a heat wave in the Intermountain West broke records from Montana to Arizona.

The North West heat wave sent locals scrambling to an area accustomed to balmy summers where many people lack air conditioning. Stores have sold their portable air conditioners and fans, some hospitals have canceled outdoor vaccination clinics, cities have opened cooling centers, baseball teams have canceled or moved weekend games and utilities prepared for possible power outages.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee has lifted COVID-19 capacity restrictions on state-owned or operated and non-profit cooling centers in light of the heat. Capacity is currently limited to 50% until the state fully reopens next Wednesday. And in Oregon, Governor Kate Brown suspended capacity limits on movie theaters and shopping malls – air-conditioned venues – as well as swimming pools ahead of a statewide reopening on Wednesday.

According to 2019 figures from the US Census Bureau, Seattle has the lowest rate of air-conditioned homes of any major US city. Only 44% of homes in the metropolitan area are air conditioned. In the Portland metropolitan area, that figure was 79%.

At a Seattle hardware store, a dozen people lined up before opening in hopes of grabbing an air conditioning unit. A worker opened the door at 8 a.m. with bad news: there were only three units.

One of the lucky buyers was Sarah O’Sell, who worried about her cat amid the triple-digit predictions.

“Unfortunately, we start to see this year after year,” said O’Sell, who used a cart to transport his new unit to his apartment next door. “We’re going to be like California, and it’s going to be the wilderness over there. It will only heat up. “

The sweltering temperatures expected on the final weekend of the US Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Oregon, also prompted USA Track and Field to reschedule several weekend events to hours earlier in the day. to avoid the heat peak.

The Portland Pickles, the city’s semi-professional baseball team, offered tickets for the weekend at $ 1.11 – the highest possible on Sunday – to keep people in the stands. And families lined up in the beating sun for ice cream and a few precious hours at community pools still operating under capacity restrictions due to COVID-19.

Sara Stathos was selling ice cream inside an air-conditioned food truck in Portland and said the business would shut down over the weekend because the ice cream “basically melts when we hand it over to customers.” in such hot weather.

“We don’t want people to stand in the sun, wait and get sick,” she said.

The extended “thermal dome” was a taste of the future for the Pacific Northwest as climate change reshapes the world’s weather, said Kristie Ebi, a professor at the University of Washington who studies the global warming and its effects on public health.

“We know from evidence around the world that climate change is increasing the frequency, intensity and duration of heat waves. You will have to get used to this in the future. Temperatures are rising and temperature extremes are rising even faster, ”she said.

“I tell my students that they will be as old as I am, that they will look back and think how nice the summers were. “

The heat is also worrying for the region as the warm air sucks moisture from the soil and vegetation more efficiently than the cooler air, making everything more prone to fires, she said.

Oregon in particular was devastated by an unusually intense wildfire season last fall that burned an estimated 1 million acres (404,685 hectares), burned more than 4,000 homes and killed nine people. Several fires are already burning around the Pacific Northwest, and much of the region is already in extreme or exceptional drought, according to the US Drought Monitor.

Fire crews were positioned in advance in areas where the fire risk was high. Counties and towns in the region have enacted burning bans – in some cases even temporarily banning personal fireworks for the July 4 bank holiday weekend.

Valdes reported from Seattle. Associated Press writers Gillian Flaccus in Portland and Rachel La Corte in Olympia, Washington, contributed. Cline is a member of the Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative Corps. Report for America is a national, nonprofit service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to cover undercover issues.

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