PORTLAND, Oregon: Intense. Prolonged. Record-breaking. Unprecedented. Abnormal. Dangerous.
That’s how the National Weather Service described the historic heat wave that is hitting the Pacific Northwest, pushing daytime temperatures into the triple digits and breaking all-time high temperature records in places where many residents don’t have air conditioning.
Sunday’s forecasted temperature in Portland, Oregon - 44 degrees Celsius - would break the all-time temperature record of 42 degrees Celsius, set just a day earlier. The forecast calls for another 44 degree day on Monday.
The temperature was expected to rise to an all-time record of 40 degrees Celsius at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Sunday and surpass that to reach a blistering 43.9 degrees Celsius on Monday, as the excessive heat warning continues for the region.
King County closed several COVID-19 testing sites because of the heat. Seattle opened additional public library branches Sunday, and will again Monday, to provide additional cooling centres, The Seattle Times reported.
Seattle's light rail trains may have to operate at reduced speeds because of excessive heat on the tracks, causing delays that could continue into the work week, Sound Transit said Sunday.
The heat wave also moved into Idaho, where temperatures above 38 degrees Celsius are forecast in Boise for at least seven days starting Monday. Ontario, Oregon - a city near the Idaho border - could see at least a week of triple-digit temperatures, including a high of 42.8 degrees Celsius on Wednesday, forecasters said.
Cities were reminding residents where pools, splash pads and cooling centres were available and urging people to stay hydrated, check on their neighbours and avoid strenuous activities.
Still, about 3,000 athletes were scheduled to participate in an Ironman Triathlon in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, on Sunday. The race start was moved up to 5 a.m. The event includes a 3.9-kilometre swim, a 180-kilometre bike ride and a 42-kilometre run.
Sam Long of Boulder, Colorado, won the race in 8 hours, 7 minutes and 42 seconds.
Race organisers said they had 28,000 kilogrammes of ice at hydration stations, misting stations and chilled towels to hand out to athletes, KHQ-TV reported.
The Coeur d’Alene Fire Department brought in extra firefighters and paramedics because they usually see extra dehydration calls during the event. Rather than a crew of 17 firefighters, they will have a crew of 60 on Sunday, KREM-TV reported.
Ironman medical tent coordinator Stan Foster said 525 people were in the medical tent during the 2015 Ironman, when temperatures also rose into the 100s. Five people went to the hospital, he told KREM-TV.
“The biggest thing that we tell people is, No 1, don’t try to set a record on your race. Go slow. Enjoy your day. It’s going to be hot," he said. “And then don’t just drink water. You have to eat, and you have to replace your electrolytes. If you just drink water, you’re going to end up here at the hospital, and you’re going to be really, really sick."
The National Weather Service in Coeur d’Alene said this week's weather "will likely be one of the most extreme and prolonged heat waves in the recorded history of the Inland Northwest. Unprecedented 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 of our ongoing drought.”
The high temperatures were forecast to move into western Montana beginning Monday.