PORTLAND, Ore.—Cooling centers began opening across the U.S. Pacific Northwest on Friday as local officials warned of “life-threatening heat” in the coming days that could shatter high-temperature records.
The National Weather Service (NWS) issued excessive heat warnings and watches across nearly all of Oregon and Washington state, along with parts of California and Idaho, telling residents that the punishing conditions could be fatal.
“This is life-threatening heat,” Jennifer Vines, health officer for Multnomah County in Oregon, said in a statement. “People need to find someplace cool to spend time during the coming days.”
Multnomah County, which includes Portland, plans to open three cooling centers this weekend, including one at the Oregon Convention Center. The city is home to some 650,000 people.
“I’ve never seen it this hot in Portland. Having lived in California, this is hot,” said Oscar Suarez, a 31-year-old chef at Rose City Futsal, an indoor soccer venue and pub in Portland.
Cooling centers have also been opened in parts of California and elsewhere in the Pacific Northwest as the heatwave gripped the region.
Temperatures have soared due to a high-pressure dome that has built over the upper northwestern United States and Canada, the NWS said, similar to the atmospheric conditions that punished California and U.S. Southwestern states earlier this month.
Eric McLeod, a 41-year-old flooring contractor, said the brutal weather was already making his job more difficult.
“The extra heat means we have to slow down, focus on self-care and put our health above the push to produce,” McLeod said. McLeod said his business, Coastal Flooring, would also take time to help provide shade and water to the vulnerable.
Experts say extreme weather events such as the late-spring heatwaves that have descended on parts of the United States this year can’t be linked directly to climate change.
But more unusual weather patterns could become more common amid rising global temperatures, NWS meteorologist Eric Schoening told Reuters in an interview last week.
By Sergio Olmos