Pacific Northwest Heat Wave: Seattle Scorches, Portland Hotter than Florida as 100-Degree Temperatures Leave Region Sweating

Seattle heat wave
Gerard Tangalan of Seattle leans on International Fountain while cooling off at the Seattle Center in Seattle, Washington on July 29, 2009. Stephen Brashear/Getty

Pacific Northwest cities like Portland and Seattle are potentially facing the highest temperatures in more than a century, and many residents are facing dangerous conditions as they do not have air conditioning in their homes.

The National Weather Service (NWS) has warned that temperatures in the region will reach between 90 and 100 degrees through Thursday and Friday. Portland reached 100 degrees on Wednesday, while Seattle was slightly cooler at 90 degrees. The cities could reach 105 degrees and 95 degrees respectively on Thursday, the AP reported.

Such extreme heat is rare in the region, which usually has mild summers: temperatures in Washington usually peak in the 80s, and the coastline is generally bedevilled by a year-long drizzle.

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Seattle has only had three days of temperatures north of 100 degrees since the 1890s, with the record temperature of 103 degrees coming in July 2009. “This is definitely not a town that was built on air conditioning, and usually we don’t need it,” said Dana Felton, a meteorologist with the NWS in Seattle, according to the Seattle Times.

At 1:00 A.M. local time on Thursday, the temperature in Seattle was 77 degrees, which is the average high for daytime temperatures at this time of year, according to the NWS Seattle.

The record temperature in Portland—107 degrees, which occurred in both 1965 and 1981—is also under threat, with highs of 104 to 107 degrees expected. That’s 20 degrees hotter than parts of Florida, where the state capital Tallahassee is expected to reach 84 degrees on Thursday.

Cities are opening cooling centers, including pools and air-conditioned libraries, where residents can seek relief from the heat.

Given the usually mild weather, air conditioning is not as ubiquitous as in other areas of the United States: only one-third of homes in the Seattle metropolitan area have air conditioning units, according to the 2015 American Housing Survey. In Portland, 70 percent of homes have air conditioning.

The NWS has also issued health guidelines for dealing with the high temperatures. Residents should drink lots of fluids, even when they don’t feel thirsty; stay out of the sun; and remain in air-conditioned rooms wherever possible. Drivers should never leave young children or pets in vehicles, as temperatures can reach deadly levels in just minutes. Residents are also advised to check up on relatives and neighbors, particularly the elderly, and take extra care of pets and livestock that may stay outdoors.