A heat wave next week is expected to bring the hottest temperatures of the year so far to the Inland Northwest.
Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward said the city is preparing a plan to open cooling centers for people without access to air conditioning.
Temperatures are predicted to hit 100 degrees or slightly beyond on Friday, according to the National Weather Service in Spokane.
Last year, a heat wave brought all-time record temperatures to the region, including 109 degrees in Spokane. The heat caused 20 deaths, according to the Spokane County Medical Examiner.
The city operated public cooling centers during last year’s record heat at Riverfront Park in the Looff Carrousel multipurpose room as well as at Spokane Public Libraries, but they were lightly attended.
Following the deaths, the City Council approved an ordinance requiring the city to open cooling centers when the forecast predicts temperatures will reach above 95 degrees for two consecutive days. Previous rules only required the cooling centers to open when forecasts showed three 100-degree days in a row. The forecast shows temperatures rising above 95 from at least Tuesday through Friday.
In an interview earlier this week, Woodward said she believes the cooling centers didn’t attract many people last year, in part, because of the pandemic.
“People like the comfort of their home, we were in a lockdown, we were still in the middle of COVID,” Woodward said. “And people weren’t comfortable leaving their homes, especially elderly and vulnerable people.”
She said she would like the city to work with other entities so people can find more places to cool down closer to their homes.
“We’d like to have the faith community more involved and open up churches as well, and neighborhoods, because I think what you need to be able to do is provide a space where they live,” Woodward said.
Council members reached on Friday said they are awaiting details on the cooling centers.
“I have heard nothing firm, there has been no announcement to me from the administration telling me what the plan is,” said Councilwoman Karen Stratton.