Heat wave duration records could be broken in the Pacific Northwest this week and authorities say temperatures near triple digits are forecast to extend into the weekend.
“For the next several days through Saturday we’re going to be within a few degrees of 100 every day,” said Colby Neuman, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Portland, Oregon.
Temperatures in Oregon’s largest city are forecast to soar to 100 degrees Fahrenheit again on both Friday and Saturday. On Tuesday, Portland set a daily record at 102.
Seattle on Tuesday also reported a new record daily high of 94 F . The heat spell was forecast to last into Saturday in Western Washington as well.
The National Weather Service’s excessive heat warnings extend through Saturday evening.
The duration of the heat wave puts Portland “in the running” for tying its longest streak of six consecutive days of 95 degrees or higher, Neuman said.
Climate change is fueling longer heat waves in the Pacific Northwest, a region where weeklong heat spells were historically rare, according to climate experts.
On Thursday, authorities said at least four people have died from suspected hyperthermia during the heat wave. The state medical examiner’s office said the heat-related death designation is preliminary and could change after further investigation.
Multnomah County said more people have been visiting emergency departments for heat-related symptoms.
Emergency department visits “have remained elevated since Sunday,” the county said in a statement. “In the past three days, hospitals have treated 13 people for heat illness, when they would normally expect to see two or three.”
People working or exercising outside, along with older people, were among those taken to emergency departments, the statement added.
People in Portland’s iconic food cart industry are among those who work outside. Many food trucks have shut down as sidewalks sizzle.
Rico Loverde, the chef and owner of the food cart Monster Smash Burgers, said the temperature inside his cart is generally 20 degrees hotter than the outdoor temperature, making it 120 inside his tiny business this week.
Loverde said he closes down if it reaches above 95 because his refrigerators overheat and shut down. Last week, even with slightly cooler temperatures in the mid-90s, Loverde got heat stroke from working in his cart for hours, he said.
“It hurts; it definitely hurts. I still pay my employees when we’re closed like this because they have to pay the bills too, but for a small business it’s not good,” he said Tuesday.
Residents and officials in the Northwest have been trying to adjust to the likely reality of longer, hotter heat waves following last summer’s deadly “heat dome” weather phenomenon that prompted record temperatures and deaths.
About 800 people died in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia during that heat wave, which hit in late June and early July. The temperature at the time soared to an all-time high of 116 in Portland and smashed heat records in cities and towns across the region. Many of those who died were older and lived alone.
Other regions of the U.S. often experience temperatures of 100 degrees. But in regions like the Pacific Northwest, people are not as acclimated to the heat and are more susceptible to it, said Craig Crandall, a professor of internal medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.
“There’s a much greater risk for individuals in areas such as the Northwest to have higher instances of heat-related injuries and death,” Crandall said.