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Historically, when it’s this hot, Spokane takes notice

"I hope it doesn't come up over that ridge," said Richard Flick as he walked away from the smoke of a fire burning near Cheney on Monday, August 6, 2018. Kathy Plonka/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
"I hope it doesn't come up over that ridge," said Richard Flick as he walked away from the smoke of a fire burning near Cheney on Monday, August 6, 2018. Kathy Plonka/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

Spokane residents should be ready to buckle down with the AC on blast and a nice, cold drink this week, as temperatures rise daily to a peak on Thursday.

That heat, which will climb to around 100 on Wednesday and is expected to reach 104 degrees on Thursday, likely will break the record of 103 for that date in August, said meteorologist Robin Fox with the National Weather Service in Spokane.

If the Weather Channel’s forecast of 107 for Thursday holds true, it could challenge for the hottest Spokane day on record.

In 1961 things got so hot, fire detectors started buzzing. On Aug. 4, Spokane tied the record of 108 set on July 26, 1928. On that hot day in 1961, John C. Parker’s fire detector went off in the attic and he called the fire department, according to a story on the front page of The Spokesman-Review. The solution? A wet sponge. The detector cooled off and stopped the buzzing. After the firemen left, Parker turned his sprinkler on his roof to cool the attic.

“Inland Empire residents sought to escape the heat, sending water consumption figures soaring along side the mercury,” read the article under the headline “Inland Empire Roasts, More Heat Is Forecast.”

Two photos placed side by side showed a working blacksmith of Union Iron Works and a young employee of Empire Cold Storage handling ice. The caption exclaimed “Some Have Right Jobs, Some Don’t for Summertime.”

Lewiston, Idaho was credited with the hottest place in the nation on Aug. 4, 1961, at an unbearable 115 degrees. Ephrata and Walla Walla hit 114, Lind 113 and Pasco recorded 112.

Temperatures over 100 degrees aren’t too common in Spokane. Since 1881, Spokane has had about 60 months with temperatures at or above 100 degrees according to records from the National Weather Service. The last four times Spokane had days over 100 degrees was in 2015, which was also a bad year for fires in much of Eastern Washington.

On July 6, 1968, the Spokane Daily Chronicle wrote about record-breaking 100-degree weather, which was the “greatest in 87 years.”

On June 23, 1992, Spokane broke the record for that day with 101 degrees. Spokane novelist Jess Walter, then a reporter for The Spokesman-Review, sought out the office manager for Norco Air Conditioning.

“People are not always nice when it’s this hot,” said Ellen Holt, who took about 100 calls from people wanting air conditioners. “They want it yesterday but we’re so busy, we can’t get there until August. Some of them became pretty grouchy.”

If Spokanites are a bit more susceptible to heat, you can hardly blame them – the area has a history of under-100 summers many years. On a few rare occasions, Spokane didn’t even breach 90 degrees in July or August, according to records from the weather service in Spokane.

Friday will be the transition day – “we’re going to have a big pattern change come Friday,” Fox said, before cooler temperatures in the mid-80s take over for the weekend.

Residents may also have problems with smoke from fires in the surrounding area, Fox said.

Keeping hydrated, EWU defensive lineman Keith Moore, takes a quick water break during the opening day of college football practice on Monday in Cheney. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Keeping hydrated, EWU defensive lineman Keith Moore, takes a quick water break during the opening day of college football practice on Monday in Cheney. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Until the heat wave passes over the weekend, residents are advised to take precautions.

“We’re going to be warming between two to four degrees each day,” Fox said. “People should stay hydrated and not exert themselves.”


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