Portland Temperatures Hotter Than Phoenix as Heat Wave Continues in Pacific Northwest

Temperatures in Portland, Oregon, were hotter than Phoenix on Thursday as the Pacific Northwest continues to endure a record-breaking heat wave, the Associated Press reported. Elsewhere in the region, where many don't have air conditioning, temperatures peaked in the 90s in Seattle, while Bellingham hit 100 F for the first time in recorded history.

Portland reached 103 F by late afternoon Thursday, compared with 100 F in Phoenix. More severe heat is expected to hit the city on Friday, the AP said.

Volunteers in Oregon distributed water, portable fans, Popsicles and information on cooling shelters to people living in homeless encampments around the Portland border. Kim James, director of homeless and housing support for Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare, said that those experiencing homelessness are hesitant to go to cooling shelters, making them more vulnerable to the dangers associated with the sweltering heat.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Portland Heat Wave
Portland, Oregon, hit 103 F Thursday afternoon as the Pacific Northwest endures a sweltering heat wave. Above, Chad Messenger collects cooling supplies on Thursday in Portland. Nathan Howard/AP Photo

In Portland, a nonprofit that serves the homeless and those with mental illness used three large vans to transport water and other cooling items to homeless encampments along the Columbia River on the eastern outskirts of the city.

Scott Zalitis, who was shirtless in the heat, ate lime-green Popsicles handed out by the group and told volunteers that the temperature at his campsite reached 105 F the day before. A huge cooler full of food spoiled when all the ice melted and he couldn't find any more to buy.

"It's miserable. I can't handle the heat no matter what. So, I mean, it's hard to stand. Even in the shade it's too hot," said Zalitis, who became homeless last year when the apartment where he subleased a room burned down in an electrical fire. "You want to stay somewhere that's cool, as cool as possible."

The encampment, where rusted-out cars and broken-down RVs mixed with tents and piles of garbage, was in sharp contrast to downtown Portland, where sweaty pedestrians cooled off by running through a large public fountain in a riverfront park.

Luna Abadia, 17, was out training with her cross country team from Lincoln High School in the morning when the group stopped for a few minutes at the fountain. The runners normally train at 4 p.m., but in recent weeks they have had to shift it to 8 a.m.—and it's still oppressively hot, she said.

"It was very hot, lots of sweat. That's something we've noticed in the past week or so," Abadia said.

Oregon Governor Kate Brown has declared a state of emergency and activated an emergency operations center, citing the potential for disruptions to the power grid and transportation. City and county governments have opened cooling centers, extended public library hours and waived bus fare for those headed to cooling centers. A 24-hour statewide help line will direct callers to the nearest cooling shelter and offer safety tips.

Intense heat waves and a historic drought in the American West reflect climate change that is making weather more extreme.

Abadia said changes brought on by climate change that she has noticed in her life prompted her to start a youth-run organization to get more young people involved in the issue.

"Climate change is everything I've been thinking about for the past weeks," she said. "This heat wave and the wildfires we faced here a year ago—and even now around the world—have really been a new reminder to what we're facing and, kind of, the immediate action that needs to be taken."

Portland Temperature Reading
Vivek Shandas, a professor of climate adaptation at Portland State University, takes a temperature reading of almost 106 degrees in downtown Portland on Thursday. Nathan Howard/AP Photo