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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

2022’s first major heatwave anticipated to hit Spokane area this week

Paisley Wilkes, 6, reacts as she is doused with cool water from the Rotary Fountain on Monday, Jun 27, 2022, at Riverfront Park in Spokane. Wilkes was on a trip to the park with her cousin and grandmother when the group stopped at the fountain to beat the heat. A heat wave expected this week is predicted to bring the warmest weather of the year so far in Spokane.  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)

After an exceptionally cool and damp spring, intense summer heat is returning to the Spokane area this week, prompting pre-emptive responses from several local agencies.

The National Weather Service in Spokane has issued an excessive heat watch for the Inland Northwest from Tuesday through Saturday, with temperatures in Spokane forecast above 100 degrees Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The heat wave will hit the Pacific Northwest a little more than a year after the historic heat wave in June 2021 that set the record for the hottest temperature ever recorded in Spokane at 109 degrees.

Weather service meteorologist Steve Bodnar said excessive heat watches have been issued for most of Oregon, Washington and North Idaho, which are usually issued in the days leading up to a major heat event. Similar to last year, the extended period of heat is due to a high pressure zone known as a heat dome. These occur when high pressure in the upper atmosphere acts as a lid, preventing hot air from escaping and causing it to sink to the earth’s surface.

Compared to June 2021’s historic heat wave, the heat event is expected to be about six to eight degrees cooler and overnight lows are expected to be lower as well. Bodnar said people can prepare for the coming heat by ensuring fans and air conditioning units are working properly, planning to avoid outdoor activities during the hottest hours of the day and having an emergency plan in place. Based on the weather service’s findings from last year’s heat wave, Bodnar said residences without air conditioning saw their hottest indoor temperatures as late as 10 p.m.

When the heat arrives, Bodnar said it is important to stay hydrated, wear light colored clothing and apply sunscreen while also ensuring pets are staying cool and hydrated.

The City of Spokane and Mayor Nadine Woodward have not announced cooling center locations at this time, but are expected to do so before Tuesday. The Spokane City Council passed an ordinance last year that requires the city to open cooling centers when the temperature is forecast to be above 95 degrees for at least two days in a row.

Twenty people died last June during the record-breaking heat wave, with the majority of deaths being elderly people who died in their home, according to the 2021 year-end report from the Spokane County Medical Examiner.

Temperatures in Spokane Monday are not forecast above the 95 degree benchmark established by the ordinance. In a news release Saturday, Woodward encouraged residents to access public libraries and parks to escape the impending heat before cooling centers are opened.

All Spokane Public Library locations are air conditioned and are open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. on Sundays. The news release also advises residents to visit Spokane Parks and Recreation pools and splash pads to stay cool. Splash pads are open 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day and city pools are open Monday through Saturday with varying hours. Locations and more information can be found on the park department’s website.

Avista Utilities spokesperson Dalila Sheehan said Avista is not expecting to implement rolling blackouts like it did last June to keep up with electricity demands. She said the company has invested in additional infrastructure planning to account for last year’s heat wave, and are continuing to upgrade substations, work that already was in progress last summer.

The heat is expected to break next weekend, with temperatures on Aug. 1 forecast to be significantly cooler. However, Bodnar said the forecast could change as the week goes on.

Bodnar said people should be aware the hot weather will dry out a lot of the moisture in low-lying grasses and vegetation – a major fuel source for wildfires in the Inland Northwest. He expects the region to enter peak wildfire season as the heat wave comes to a close, a bit later than usual due to the cold and damp spring.

There have been seven wildfires in Washington and Oregon this year, burning a total of 46,962 acres, according to the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center, which helps coordinate wildfire response.

At this time last year there had been 43 wildfires that burned 588,114 acres in Washington and Oregon.

“Just be extra cautious through the week, and especially going into next weekend, with not accidentally starting any fires,” Bodnar said. “Those are things like having chains dragging from your trailer, welding near dry grasses, something along those lines.”

Fire departments in the Spokane area also are concerned about the fire danger the hot, dry weather will bring and have issued burn restrictions for Spokane County in anticipation.

Effective last Friday , open burning and outdoor recreational fires in a fire pit are banned in Spokane County. Fires held in portable devices with a chimney, like patio warmers or chimneys still are allowed.

Anyone found in violation of the burn restriction may be charged with a misdemeanor, according to a news release from the agencies.