Temperatures are expected to start climbing significantly Saturday in parts of the Pacific Northwest as an early heat wave takes hold, possibly breaking records and worsening wildfires already burning in western Canada.
The historically temperate region has grappled with scorching summer temperatures and unprecedented wildfires fueled by climate change in recent years.
The National Weather Service issued a heat advisory lasting from Saturday through Monday for much of the western parts of both Oregon and Washington state. It said the temperatures could raise the risk of heat-related illness, particularly for those who are dehydrated or don’t have effective cooling.
Temperatures in Portland, Oregon, are expected to hover around 94 F throughout the weekend, according to the weather service. The current daily temperature records for May 13 and 14 stand at 92 F and 91 F, dating from 1973 and 2014, respectively.
Temperatures in the Seattle area could also meet or surpass daily records, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Jacob DeFlitch. The mercury could near 85 F on Saturday and reach into the low 90s on Sunday, he said.
The unseasonal high temperatures could further flame the dozens of fires burning in Canada’s western Alberta province, where officials have ordered evacuations and declared a state of emergency. Residents and officials in the Northwest have been trying to adjust to the likely reality of longer, hotter heat waves following the deadly “heat dome” weather phenomenon in 2021 that prompted record temperatures and deaths across the region.
Elizabeth Romero and her three children were among those cooling off at a fountain in downtown Portland on Friday afternoon.
“We decided to stop by ... until we all feel better,” she said, adding that she plans to seek out shaded parks during the weekend.
King County, home to Seattle, directed transportation operators such as bus drivers to let people ride for free if they’re seeking respite from the heat or heading to a cooling center. The county’s regional homeless authority said several cooling and day centers will be open across the county.
Authorities also urged people to be wary of cold water temperatures, should they be tempted to take a river or lake swim to cool off. River temperatures are probably in the low- to mid-40s, National Weather Service meteorologist Higa said.
Residents and officials in the Pacific Northwest have become more vigilant about heat wave preparations after some 800 people died in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia during the heat dome weather event in late June and early July 2021. The temperature at the time soared to an all-time high of 116 F in Portland and smashed heat records in cities and towns across the region. Many of those who died were older people who lived alone.
In response, Oregon passed a law requiring all new housing built after April 2024 to have air conditioning installed in at least one room. The law already prohibits landlords in most cases from restricting tenants from installing cooling devices in their rental units.
Last summer, Portland launched a heat response program with the goal of installing portable heat pump and cooling units in low-income households, prioritizing residents who are older and live alone, as well as those with underlying health conditions. Local nonprofits participating in the program installed more than 3,000 units last year, according to the city’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability.
Officials in Multnomah County, home to Portland, said they weren’t planning on opening special cooling centers for now but are monitoring the forecast and can do so if needed.
“This is the first significant event … and it is early for us,” said Chris Voss, the county’s director of emergency management. “We’re not seeing a situation where we are hearing that this is extremely dangerous. That being said, we don’t know if it’s going to drift.”