Seattle, Portland and other cities in the Pacific north-west broke all-time heat records over the weekend, with temperatures soaring well above 100F (37.8C).
But forecasters said Monday could be even worse, with the mercury possibly hitting 110F (43C) in Seattle and 115F (46C) in Portland. The high temperatures could continue on Tuesday in some areas.
The extreme weather was caused by an extended “heat dome” parked over the Pacific north-west. The days-long heatwave was a taste of the future as climate change reshapes global weather patterns, said Kristie Ebi, a professor at the University of Washington who studies global warming and its effects on public health.
“This event will likely be one of the most extreme and prolonged heatwaves in the recorded history of the inland north-west,” the National Weather Service said. “Heat will not only threaten the health of residents in the Inland Northwest, but will make our region increasingly vulnerable to wildfires and intensify the impacts to our ongoing drought.”
Officials in Portland shut down light rail and street cars due to the high temperatures, districts halted summer school bus service and people braced for possibly the hottest day of the scorcher.
The high heat was straining the city’s power grid and overhead wires that propel the Max trains, so service was being suspended through Tuesday morning. “The Max system is designed to operate in conditions up to 110F. Forecasts show it will likely only get hotter,” the agency said in a statement.
The streets were mostly empty in south-east Portland during the hottest part of the afternoon on Saturday and Sunday. Restaurants with outdoor tables that would normally be packed were deserted and ice cream shops and food trucks across the city closed their doors for the weekend, as some reported temperatures of 106F in their kitchens.
With outdoor pools closed due to the heat, residents sought refuge on the Willamette River, kayaking and boating on the stretch of water that divides the east and west sides of the city.
In Eugene, Oregon, the US track and field trials were halted Sunday afternoon and fans were asked to evacuate the stadium due to extreme heat. The National Weather Service said it hit 110F in Eugene, breaking the all-time record of 108F.
Portland, Oregon, reached 112F Sunday, breaking the all-time temperature record of 108F, which was set just a day earlier.
The temperature hit 104F in Seattle. The weather service said that was an all-time record for the city better known for rain than heat and was the first time the area recorded two consecutive triple digit days since records began being kept in 1894.
The heat wave stretched into British Columbia, with the temperature in Lytton, a village in the Canadian province, reaching 115F Sunday afternoon, marking a new all-time high recorded in Canada. The heat wave also moved into Idaho, where temperatures above 100F are forecast in Boise for at least seven days starting Monday.
In eastern Washington, the Richland and Kennewick school districts halted bus service for summer school because the vehicles aren’t air-conditioned, making it unsafe for students.
Typically, temperatures for this time of year in the region average 73F. Many residents and businesses do not have cooling systems. In Seattle, less than half of households have air conditioning, according to data from the US census. People flocked to cooling centers and cities reminded residents where pools, splash pads and cooling centers were available, urging people to stay hydrated, check on their neighbors and avoid strenuous activities.
Donna Meade told the Seattle Times: “I will get air conditioning. I thought I could live through the heat, but nope. We still have July, August and the smoke to get through.”