Forecasts for triple-digit heat have caused a minor panic across the Pacific Northwest, a region famous for cool weather where many people do not have air conditioning to help them endure the rare furnace-like blast.
In normally temperate Oregon and Washington, families generally get by on warm days by simply drawing shades and running fans. But a searing high-pressure system is expected to make Portland and Seattle hotter than Phoenix, at least for a couple of days.
Many concerned communities have opened cooling centers and warned residents to stay hydrated, avoid strenuous activity and keep their dogs out of parked vehicles.
The National Weather Service slightly dialed back its forecast for Portland to match or break its record high of 107 degrees (41.7 Celsius). Meteorologist David Bishop said the city is now looking at 104 (40 degrees Celsius) or 105 degrees (40.5 Celsius) on Wednesday and Thursday.
“With little to no cloud cover at night, the higher temperatures kind of hang around a little bit,” Bishop said. That creates a cycle in which “the next day is going to be a little bit warmer because we’re already starting off warmer than the previous day.”
The latest forecast for Seattle also showed predicted highs easing a bit from earlier predictions. The weather service said the high for Wednesday would be 91 degrees (32.8 Celsius) and 94 (34.4 Celsius) on Thursday.
The Northwest is better known for its fall, winter and spring rainy seasons. Even July and August are relatively mild months. But the powerful high-pressure system arrived just at the height of summer.
Portland’s light-rail trains are operating at slower speeds amid concern that the heat will cause tracks to expand and risk a derailment. In exchange for the slow service, fare inspectors are not checking riders for tickets.
Hun Taing uses the train to get to her job in downtown Portland, but she switched to an air-conditioned car because of the delays. She and a co-worker, Heather Heater, had a casual work meeting Wednesday at Director Park, dipping their toes in the fountain as children splashed in the water.
They both have air conditioning at home — something they once lacked — and expressed more concern for the homeless and elderly than for their personal comfort.
“I was in an apartment without AC when I just had my twins, and it was really difficult,” Taing said. “We had to pack ourselves in the car and just go somewhere, drive somewhere, because that apartment on the…