“No, no, no,” Linda Longoria cried as she heard the weather forecast for Portland, Oregon on Friday: 100F (38C). “I can’t do it. Even in the shade it’s so humid.”
Longoria, 65, and her son are homeless and stay in hotels when they can but sometimes are forced to sleep outdoors. A lifelong resident of the city, she shook her head: “A heatwave in Portland. It’s not usually like this.”
Less than two months after seeing its highest temperature on record, 116F, the city of 645,000 was facing more grueling temperatures from yet another intense heatwave scorching the Pacific north-west.
Temperatures in Portland climbed to 103F on Thursday while Bellingham, Washington, hit 100F for the first time. Seattle reached highs in the 90s. Much of the region was under an excessive heat warning through Saturday.
Portland typically sees mild summers with temperatures in the eighties in August. The heatwave, the second of the summer, is particularly dangerous in a region unaccustomed to such extreme heat. Ninety-six Oregon residents died in the June heatwave; 60 were Portland residents. The occurrence of that heatwave would have been virtually impossible without human-caused climate change, a detailed scientific analysis has found.
As the temperatures climbed in south-east Portland on Friday, streets were quieter than normal, save for a handful of cars and scattered cyclists. A haze of smoke from nearby wildfires covered the sky, which forecasters said could help keep temperatures on Friday and Saturday slightly lower than predicted. Some restaurants, food trucks and coffee shops closed early for the day, leaving notes of apology on their doors, citing the heatwave.
Meanwhile, the city closed its outdoor pools on Thursday and Friday afternoon to “protect all visitors and staff”.
Portland ranks third among the least air-conditioned US cities – about 70% of homes have air conditioning. Oregon’s governor, Kate Brown, and the Portland mayor, Ted Wheeler, declared a state of emergency earlier in the week due to the heat, and officials opened cooling centers across the city and state.
“Not everyone has a place to get cool. This climate doesn’t usually get this hot and it’s important people have a place to rest,” said Jake Dornblaser, who was overseeing a cooling center at a middle school in south-east Portland. “There are so many people in Portland that need access to resources.”
The center, which is open 24 hours a day through Sunday, provides people with food, water, beds and other basic items. Longoria had been sitting nearby in the heat with her son when a couple stopped to tell them about the center.
“I was so thankful. My son – he’s in a wheelchair with a broken leg. We were both hot sitting outside. We had never heard of this,” she said.
The 65-year-old, who uses a walker, said she relied on water bottles and wet bandanas to survive the summer heat, but that this year had been particularly difficult. Longoria and her son lost their house in the city after her husband died.
“I’m gonna reminisce about my house and then walk in,” she said, looking at the cooling center.
The Associated Press contributed to this report