‘Heat can kill’: Officials warn Oregon residents as extreme heat approaches

Portland residents began receiving text and voice alerts on their phones Wednesday morning


By Kale Williams
oregonlive.com
        
PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland residents began receiving text and voice alerts on their phones Wednesday morning as the region braces for a second round of extreme heat.

It was unclear from exactly which agency the alerts originated, but a recorded voice message warned residents of the potential danger as temperatures were expected to climb toward triple digits on Wednesday with hotter temps expected for the end of the work week.

“Dangerously hot conditions with temperatures up to 105 degrees are expected,” the recording said. “Heat can kill. Make a plan to stay cool.”

People made use of a cooling center at the Oregon Convention Center during Portland's unprecedented heat wave on Monday, June 28, 2021.
People made use of a cooling center at the Oregon Convention Center during Portland's unprecedented heat wave on Monday, June 28, 2021. (Dave Killen)

The National Weather Service has issued an excessive heat warning from noon Wednesday through 10 p.m. Saturday, with temperatures expected to climb close close to this month’s records, ranging from 102 to 107, though wildfire smoke may moderate temperatures slightly.

In late June, temperatures in Portland crested at an all-time high of 116 degrees. Nearly 100 people perished from heat-related illnesses over the three days of high temperatures and roughly a dozen more deaths were still under investigation as possibly caused by the weather.

The majority of those who died were Multnomah County residents and roughly one in five lived in mobile homes. Many did not have fans or air conditioners.

In the aftermath of the June heat wave, and criticism that state and county governments did not do enough to warn and protect residents, officials seem to be taking a more proactive approach this time around.

On Tuesday, Gov. Kate Brown, Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler each declared a state of emergency in their respective jurisdictions.

“This tool gives us the flexibility to respond to the heat wave and to alert everyone that heat is dangerous especially for isolated older adults, people who work outdoors, children and pets,’’ Kafoury said of the declaration. “There can be no doubt after June that extreme heat can kill and we are treating these events like the health hazard they are.’’

Dangerous heat waves, drought and wildfire, all of which have taken a toll on Oregon this summer, have been made more likely by human-caused climate change, experts have long said.

Cooling centers have opened around the region and public officials have been sounding the alarm, asking residents to make sure they have somewhere cool to spend the day for the latter part of the week and to check on vulnerable friends, family and neighbors who may not have access to air conditioning.

TriMet said it would be waiving fares for those who needed transportation to cooling centers and that nobody would be refused a ride regardless of their ability to pay. Residents in need of assistance could also call 211 for help finding a cool place to wait out high temperatures.

In addition to the recorded messages, Portland residents also received text messages, in English and Spanish, warning of the impending heat.

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