Those in the Portland area look to cool off during summer heat wave

Published: Jun. 26, 2022 at 5:14 PM PDT
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PORTLAND, Ore. (KPTV) - Summer is finally here, bringing a heat wave, and memories of last year’s deadly heat dome.

People around the Pacific Northwest flocked to the coast, lakes, rivers and public parks to try and stay cool.

Sarah Trinka is visiting Portland from Minnesota and brought her family to the area to escape the triple-digit heat there. She went with her friends and family to Jamison Park in northwest Portland to cool off at a child-friendly water fountain.

“I love seeing the kids running around splashing in the water, wearing their swimsuits and sunscreen, and just the whole ambiance,” Trinka said.

But as Portlanders find ways to cool off, the community is also remembering the lives that were lost during the June 2021 heat dome. Multnomah County held a memorial at Leach Botanical Gardens in southeast Portland to honor those who died in the summer of 2021 from the heat. Those in attendance also went over a report about those deaths.

“Last year we were surprised by the severity, the length, the deadliness, and the heat emergency that we experienced,” Portland mayor Ted Wheeler said.

June 26, 2021 was the start of the heat wave that warmed Oregon and Washington to record-breaking temperatures. The heat killed dozens of people in both states.

Brendon Haggerty works for the Multnomah County Health Department and helped gather data for a report about the heat-caused deaths last summer. The report found many of those who perished lived alone, were male, elderly, didn’t have access to air conditioning and lived in low-income neighborhoods.

“I think that’s the most important thing people can take away from this report,” Haggerty said. “Heat is very dangerous and can happen to you even if you think you’re fit and well-positioned.”

Lori Stegmann, the Vice-Chair of the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners, said the county is taking steps to better prepare for more heat waves. She said this includes centralizing communication about heat waves between the county and city governments, activating response teams for heat waves sooner and keeping some libraries open later to operate as cooling centers. There are also plans to distribute 1,000 air conditioning units to low-income households in east county.

“Multnomah County stands ready to respond to whatever emergency may arise,” she said.

Though the memory of last year’s deadly heat dome is still fresh, many people are happy to have the sunshine and warmth back after a long, wet spring.

“The sun is shining and the weather’s warm,” Trinka said. “We all pretty much have smiles on our faces when we’re all hydrated and have snacks.”

If you would like some tips from the Multnomah County Health Department about how to stay cool this summer, you can click here.