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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Temperature reaches 109 degrees, making Tuesday the hottest day on record in Spokane

By Emma Epperly and Sydney Brown The Spokesman-Review

Tuesday became Spokane’s hottest day on record when the temperature reached 109 degrees at the Spokane International Airport just after 4 p.m., the National Weather Service reported.

The temperature hit 111 degrees downtown, forecasters said, but the official records are taken from the airport.

The reading beats the previous all-time mark of 108 degrees last reached on Aug. 4, 1961 and first recorded on July 26, 1928.

The record high follows another record reached overnight, when the low temperature was 77 degrees, tying Spokane’s highest low temperature.

The last overnight low of 77 degrees was recorded on July 27, 1928. Temperature records for the Spokane area have been collected since 1881.

It was the “warmest overnight temperature that we’ve had in Spokane for any date,” said Meteorologist Greg Koch from NWS Spokane.

The third-warmest night in Spokane history was Monday, with an overnight low of 76 degrees.

“If you look at it historically, over the last few days we’ve had two out of the three warmest nights in recorded history for Spokane,” Koch said.

Records likely will keep falling for the rest of the week, but the peak of the heat wave was forecast to be Tuesday and Wednesday.

“This is going to be a prolonged heat wave,” Koch said. “Today and tomorrow will be the peak of it, with 110 today and 109 tomorrow.”

For perspective, temperatures in Spokane peaked even above Phoenix, coming close to temperatures recorded in the Mojave Desert on Tuesday, where the high was 112 degrees.

A return to the average high temperatures for this time of the year in the upper 70s will be slow, Koch said.

“The breakdown of this heat wave is going to be very gradual. We are looking at temperatures at or above 100 through at least Saturday,” Koch said. “We have a shot at dipping into the mid-90s by Monday or Tuesday.”

Earlier this year, the Climate Prediction Center said with high confidence there would be above-average temperatures this summer, Koch said.

“I don’t think that translates into being 20 degrees above average every day like what we’ve experienced here recently,” Koch said.

Avista Utilities, which experienced unplanned temporary outages as a result of the high demand for electricity in the area, offered free rides from Tuesday to Friday for those who wanted to go to a cooling center but did not have transportation, according to a news release from Avista.

Anyone who needs transportation to a cooling center can call (509) 328-1552 with at least two hours of advance notice, according to the release.

And many may need it – people in the Pacific Northwest tend to have fewer air conditioning units compared with almost any other U.S. region, according to the 2019 American Housing Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau.

This showed the need for more services for people who didn’t have AC, or were homeless, said Sarah Yerden, director of marketing and communications for Catholic Services of Spokane.

“I mean, this happened so quickly. We all of a sudden are having record-breaking heat,” Yerden said. “And Spokane, we really aren’t ready for this.”

Catholic Charities of Spokane opened five cooling centers Tuesday to address this need. Some centers were created for more vulnerable populations, such as a senior citizens only and a women’s-only center.

The city of Spokane provided nearly 1,000 spots among the open Spokane Public Libraries locations and at Riverfront Park in the Looff Carrousel multipurpose room.

The heat challenged even those who came from hot or desert climates, like visiting church youth leader Sammy Hansen.

Hansen, who spent Tuesday afternoon in a shady area at Riverfront Park, left her hometown of San Diego on a road trip with friends that took her through the Mojave Desert.

The area often reaches 100-plus temperatures, and Hansen went through it without air conditioning for much of the drive.

“But honestly, it isn’t that bad because you expect it,” she said. “You usually don’t think of Washington as this super hot area. I definitely wasn’t thinking it would be like this when we got [to Spokane].”

Anthony Quinoz, a junior at University of Montana, often visited family in Houston, Texas, though he was born and raised in Spokane.

He said Houston was by far the hottest place he had visited.

According to Houston’s NWS page, Houston’s all-time high is 109 degrees, which Spokane also reached on Tuesday.

“This is crazy,” he said. “The humidity sucks because it makes 110 feel like 125, but it’s so dry here that I don’t know which is worse.”

Spokesman-Review staffer Arielle Dreher contributed to this report.