Record temperatures in the Pacific Northwest are keeping citizens up at night and outside of their homes more. On Wednesday, temperatures measured as high as 103 degrees at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, the highest since the area started recording temperatures in 1891, said Jay Albrecht, lead forecaster at the National Weather Service in Seattle, during a phone interview.
“Sleeping conditions are pretty unbearable,” said local resident Linda Faye, who said that since the heat spell began on Sunday, she has been spending her evenings in packed theaters to avoid the heat in her home, which has no air conditioner.
An “abnormal” wind from desert and mountain areas east of Seattle is responsible for the heat wave, said Albrecht. He explained that the air that comes down from the mountain gets compressed and warms up. For air that is 85 degrees at 3,000 feet, its temperature increases 5 to 5.5 degrees for every 1,000 feet the air descends, said the weather forecaster.
The Pacific Northwest is known for its relatively mild summers. Temperature during the summer months are usually in the mid to upper 70s, said Albrecht.
In Seattle and many other parts of the Northwest where few households have air conditioning, local community centers, libraries and pools are open later into the evenings, according to Cornell Amaya, public information officer for the Emergency Operations Center of Seattle.
“We have been monitoring 211 and 911 calls,” and have “not heard of anyone in the area that has had heat stroke or heat exhaustion,” said Keith Eisner, spokesperson for Thurston County Emergency Management in Olympia, Washington.
“Police are carrying cold water to give to people on the streets … advising them to get in the shade,” said Amaya.
Since only 30 percent of buses in Seattle are air conditioned, some drivers had to be substituted due to the unbearable heat, Amaya reported. Also, senior centers which had air conditioning problems Wednesday transported the elderly to cooler places.
Due to emergency centers’ quick transfer of information and citizens’ adherence to the warnings, there have been no “official incidents where people were overcome with heat,” said Amaya, who advised people to stay hydrated, stay in cool places, wear loose clothing and check up on neighbors and the elderly.
Air conditioners and fans have sold out in many stores in Seattle.
Since Monday evening, 700 to 800 cooling appliances were purchased at just one Home Depot in Seattle, according to an assistant store manager. The store will not be expecting anymore shipments, but more window air conditioners and fans may be transferred from other Home Depots in Washington state, to arrive a week or two later, the manager added.
“I sold 198 fans over the weekend—Saturday and Sunday,” said manager of a local Walgreens. There was a shipment of 31 fans on Tuesday, which “sold out in 20 minutes,” the manager reported.
Temperatures in the Pacific Northwest are expected to cool, according to forecaster Albrecht, who said he sees “some relief on the horizon.”
“Marine air” from the Pacific Ocean, which maintained its cool temperature in the lower 50s, will alleviate the humid, unusual heat beginning Thursday night, said Albrecht.