A blistering heat wave is scorching the Pacific Northwest this week, shattering temperature records and damaging infrastructure across a region usually known for its mild climate.
Portland, Oregon’s most populous city, broke its heat record of 108 degrees on Sunday when the temperature topped out at 112, and it may hit 115 on Monday. Salem, the state’s capital, broke its heat record two days in a row, with the temperature hitting 113 degrees on Sunday and 114 on Monday.
Temperatures were slightly lower in Washington, in part due to a marine layer moving in off the coast. Still, Seattle on Monday marked the first time on record it has had three consecutive days of triple-digit weather.
The heat wave has brought some unusual problems to the region, where temperatures are typically low enough year-round that many people don’t have air conditioning in their homes.
The Portland Streetcar, which serves downtown Portland, shut down service Sunday and plans to stay closed until at least Tuesday morning. The service posted a photo of a melted power cable on Sunday to explain the disruption.
In case you're wondering why we're canceling service for the day, here's what the heat is doing to our power cables. pic.twitter.com/EqbKUgCJ3K
— Portland Streetcar (@PDXStreetcar) June 27, 2021
The city’s MAX Light Rail Service shut down, too, explaining that high temperatures were straining the power grid and the overhead wires that power its trains.
Communities affected by the heat wave are also dealing with roadways buckling from the heat, making them unsafe to travel on. It also raises the risk of sinkholes that can be caused by thermal expansion, in which concrete or asphalt gets so hot it begins to expand with nowhere to go but up.
State Route 544 milepost 7 near Everson, Wa is currently closed. The asphalt roadway is buckling and unsafe for travel. WSDOT is advised and detours are currently being set up. BL pic.twitter.com/5Yb9UYzbDc
— Trooper Rocky Oliphant (@wspd7pio) June 28, 2021
A section of pavement has come loose on NB I-405 at I-5 in Tukwila. The SB I-405 ramp to northbound I-5 is closed, the HOV ramp remains open. WSP has it coned off and our maintenance crew is en route to make repairs. pic.twitter.com/p05K2XzN5P
— WSDOT Traffic (@wsdot_traffic) June 27, 2021
Here's a look at the work happening on SR 544, milepost 7 near Everson. Crews are working on repairs and have the highway closed at this time. pic.twitter.com/7buT2X0YRa
— WSDOT North (@wsdot_north) June 28, 2021
The effects on transportation can make it harder for people to seek refuge from the heat at cooling centers or at the homes of friends or relatives who have air conditioning. While about 91% of U.S. homes have air conditioning, just 78% of homes in Portland and 44% of homes in Seattle do.
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