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Record highs shattered as unprecedented heat wave stifles the Northwest

By
Renee Duff, Accuweather.com
Maximum highs forecast Sunday by the National Weather Service. Map courtesy NWS
Maximum highs forecast Sunday by the National Weather Service. Map courtesy NWS

To say it's hot in the Northwest is an understatement. Temperatures have already soared to levels never been experienced in recorded history in this part of the United States -- and AccuWeather meteorologists say the summer sizzle hasn't even reached its peak.

AccuWeather's team of expert forecasters were describing the then upcoming heat wave as "unprecedented", "life-threatening" and "historic" as early as the middle of last week, and these descriptions have been accurate in the early stages of the Northwest scorcher.

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Saturday was just the beginning of the extended stretch of extreme temperatures. Portland, Ore., recorded its hottest day ever, climbing to a sizzling 108 degrees Fahrenheit. The previous all-time record high was 107 set once in July of 1965 and twice in August of 1981.

The city is not only expected to obliterate its daily record highs of 98 and 100 on Sunday and Monday, respectively, but also blow by the newly set all-time record high of 108. AccuWeather is predicting a high of 115 on Sunday and 114 on Monday, which would make these dates the first and second hottest days ever recorded in the city, with Saturday then marking the third hottest.

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The highest temperature ever recorded in the state of Oregon is 117, which was set in Umatilla on July 27, 1939.

"Temperatures of 110 F or greater are virtually unheard of west of the Cascades," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Randy Adkins noted.

Seattle soared to its own impressive heights on Saturday as the thermometer skyrocketed to 102, making June 26 the second hottest day in the city since records began and shattering the city's June record high of 96.

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The Emerald City will easily eclipse Sunday and Monday's daily records, which stand in the lower 90s, and likely set new marks for the first and second hottest days in recorded history. Sunday's high is predicted to be a scorching 104, with Monday expected to be even hotter at 110!

"The heat is on, Seattle. Stay hydrated, keep blinds closed, use fans, and if it gets too hot for you, head to one of our cooling centers," the Seattle Office of Emergency Management said on Twitter Saturday.

The all-time state record-high temperature for Washington is 118, most recently set at Burbank on Aug. 5, 1961. Temperatures in Sunnyside, Washington, located about 180 miles southeast of Seattle, may soar close to this mark by Tuesday.

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Average highs in June can be anywhere from the 70s in eastern Washington and Oregon to the 80s in western areas and into Idaho.

Temperatures this high are downright life threatening, especially for more vulnerable populations such as the elderly and homeless, as well as those without air conditioning. It is common for homeowners in this part of the country to be without air conditioning, due to the typically temperate conditions.

The nighttime hours will provide little in terms of relief as overnight lows are expected to remain abnormally high, generally in the 60s and 70s. This will make it even more difficult to control the buildup of heat in homes without cooling systems. While fans can be an effective means of reducing body temperature by evaporating perspiration, they can accelerate dehydration in some cases.

Experts urge residents to utilize cooling centers, drink plenty of water or sports beverages and avoid outdoor activity during the hottest times of the day in the extreme conditions.

The searing temperatures are a result of a dominating area of high pressure, known as a heat dome, that is heating up all layers of the atmosphere. This high extends as far north as western Canada.

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"The situation isn't any better in Canada," Adkins said.

The magnitude of the heat there may be rivaled only by the prolonged heat wave of July 1936 in Manitoba and Ontario. That particular heat wave lasted for nearly two weeks and claimed the lives of over 1,000 Canadians.

"All-time record-high temperatures could be challenged - and not just for an individual location or even an entire province, but the nation as a whole," Adkins said.

The all-time record high for British Columbia is 112 F, recorded on July 16 and 17, 1941, in Lytton and Lillooet, while the record for all of Canada is 113 F, set on July 5, 1937, in Midale and Yellowgrass, Saskatchewan.

AccuWeather meteorologists predict Kamloops, British Columbia, to reach 112 F on Monday and 115 F (46 C) on Tuesday, which would set a new all-time record high for the country.

In addition to the lengthy heat wave posing a health risk to millions, the exceptional temperatures will have other negative impacts on the region.

"As a result of the persistent heat and high energy demands this month, residents that do have air conditioners and make use of their means to keep cool can expect costly electric bills," AccuWeather Meteorologist Brandon Buckingham said.

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Travel may also be impacted. The Seattle Department of Transportation has advised motorists to anticipate delays on the roadways as they give several steel drawbridges in the city cold showers to avoid expansion of iron beams and any potential malfunctions.

Air travel can also be negatively affected by the heat, as delays are possible due to aircraft needing more space between takeoffs and landings.

"Significant impacts will be possible on snow and glaciers in the mountains during and after the heat wave. Rapid melting and water rushing through or underneath snow and icepack can create dangerous conditions for anyone hiking," Buckingham added.

Many may be wondering -- is there any relief in sight? In short, forecasters say no.

"While the discussion will shift away from record-setting temperatures in places such as Seattle and Portland later in the week, unusual heat will still remain in place for the Pacific Northwest," AccuWeather Meteorologist Mary Gilbert said.

In fact, record-challenging temperatures are likely to persist east of the Cascades and throughout western Canada into the early days of July.

High temperatures can still soar close to 20 degrees above normal each day for many locations from the middle of the week onward, according to Gilbert.

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