SEATTLE – Western Washington and Oregon residents more accustomed to rain and cooler climate sought refuge from a heat wave Wednesday, as Seattle recorded the hottest temperature in its history and Portland fell just 1 degree short of its own record-breaker.
The National Weather Service in Seattle recorded 103 degrees at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, breaking a record of 100 degrees set in downtown Seattle in 1941 and repeated at the airport in 1994.
Jay Albrecht, a Seattle meteorologist with the service, said it was the hottest day in Seattle since record-keeping began in 1891.
In Oregon, heat records were set in cities across the western half of the state, with Portland topping out at 106 degrees, breaking the old record of 100 for the day but falling 1 degree shy of its all-time record of 107. Portland most recently hit the 107 mark in 1981.
Oregon weather data goes back to the 1850s, although meteorologist Charles Dalton said the 107-degree mark, recorded at the Portland airport, reflects records kept at that site since 1941.
Meteorologist Doug McDonnal in Seattle said the stretch of hot weather has lasted longer than usual. Wednesday was the fifth consecutive day above 85 degrees for Seattle, he said.
Shade, icy treats, ice-cold water, air conditioning units and fans were in high demand.
Geno Garcia, 40, a Boeing machinist, headed straight for Sears in Seattle early Wednesday when the family’s air-conditioning unit broke down.
“We could have lived without it, but it would have been uncomfortable,” he said, as he stood in line with about 100 others who bought air conditioners.
Garcia said his family plans to keep cool by hunkering down in the one bedroom that’s air-conditioned. They’ve already moved their TV, games and other necessities into that room, and have been eating meals there.
Darren Wilson, 38, a concrete finisher from Puyallup, Wash., started his Seattle street paving job at 5:30 a.m., three hours earlier than usual, to beat the heat.
“I’m drinking lots of water,” he said. “When I get off work, I’m going to my buddy’s house and jump in his pool.”
Portlanders were trying to stay cool every which way. Public fountains were clogged with children. Libraries swelled with people trying to stay out of the sun. And cooling centers for seniors were open late.
Shirley Markstaller, 71, parked herself in front of a fan and read the morning paper at a cooling center in downtown Portland.
She doesn’t have an air conditioner at home, so she’s been coming to the center every day for the past week or so. “I just thought, ‘Where’s the coolest place?’ ” she said.
Oregon’s Willamette Valley was roasting.
The temperature climbed to 106 in Salem, and Eugene hit 105, beating a record 101 for the calendar day in both cities. In southern Oregon, Medford inched past its record of 108 to reach 109 on Wednesday. Dalton said that too was a record for the day. The previous records for all those cities were from 2003.
An excessive heat warning was in effect for much of Western Washington through Friday, but meteorologists in both states said forecasts called for gradual cooling.
At the Tails-A-Wagging doggie day care in Bellingham, owner Angi Lenz and her staff kept dogs comfortable with special cooling fans, air conditioning, ice toys and water slides. “We have a waiting list to get in this week because of the heat,” Lenz said.