About 100 people took refuge each day in Old Town from steamy temperatures this week, Multnomah County officials say.
Portland saw a high of 98 degrees Wednesday, Aug. 17. Thursday was cooler—86 degrees—with cloud cover blunting the hottest temperatures. In between, the city experienced one of the warmest nights in its history: 73 degrees. The National Weather Service says that’s two degrees shy of the highest low temperature Portland has recorded, 75 degrees during the heat dome last summer.
That extreme climate event, and the resulting 69 deaths in the Portland area, have kept county and city officials on edge this summer—repeatedly opening cooling shelters as new hot spells approach.
The county centered its weather shelter response this week in Old Town, within walking distance of some of Portland’s largest centers of tent camping. (People living outdoors have the most difficulty escaping the weather, as do people living in subsidized housing, which rarely includes air conditioning.) The nonprofit Do Good Multnomah, which is largely funded by county contracts, operated the cooling shelter.
“We had 108 people seeking relief [Wednesday] between 2 and 10 pm in the cooling space run by Do Good Multnomah in Old Town,” Multnomah County health officer Dr. Jennifer Vines tells WW. “We had 118 people come into the Old Town cooling space Thursday 2 to 10 pm.”
Local officials also managed splash pads and extended hours at some libraries. Lloyd Center remained open past dusk. “We really have no way of knowing how many people went to the Lloyd Center, splash pads and community centers or libraries,” Vines says.
At least seven people have died from overheating this summer. So far, no deaths related to the heat have been reported this week.