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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane ties another heat record Sunday as heat wave stretches into another week; relief comes Tuesday

July 31, 2022 Updated Sun., July 31, 2022 at 9:58 p.m.

Molly the Jack Russell mix swims in the Spokane River toward her owner Christi Woods at Riverstone Dog Park in Coeur d’Alene on Sunday.  (kathy plonka)
Molly the Jack Russell mix swims in the Spokane River toward her owner Christi Woods at Riverstone Dog Park in Coeur d’Alene on Sunday. (kathy plonka)

Spokane tied its hottest temperature of the year Sunday at 102 degrees, as the ongoing heat wave impacting the Inland Northwest stretches into another week.

The National Weather Service in Spokane has extended their excessive heat warning for the Inland Northwest until Monday night, with temperatures expected to cool off Tuesday. After temperatures topped 100 degrees Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the weather service forecast high temperatures in the low 90s in Spokane by Tuesday.

The City of Spokane and Mayor Nadine Woodward have extended the use of Spokane Public Library branches as cooling centers until Monday evening, in accordance with an ordinance passed by the Spokane City Council 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. The Central, Shadle Park, Liberty Park and Hillyard libraries will be open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday and are the city’s four official cooling centers.

Cool Spokane, a grassroots effort led by local advocacy groups, nonprofits and other organizations that work with the unhoused community of Spokane, have also established impromptu cooling centers around the city. Some locations are indoors, like the one hosted by Compassionate Addiction Treatment at their location on South Division Street, while others are housed in shaded tents, like the location next to Spokane City Hall near Riverfront Park.

Courtney Lang, a 20-year-old volunteer at the shaded tent next to Riverfront Park on Sunday afternoon, passed out water bottles and snacks to anyone in need.

Lang said she volunteered with Cool Spokane at different locations for the past four days, usually working three- to four-hour shifts. She heard about the effort while watching a local broadcast news station, and decided to volunteer to give back to the community she grew up in. Lang is a student at California Polytechnic State University and will return there when classes begin this fall.

“I feel like people understand the cold might kill you in the winter, but they don’t think about how the heat might kill you in the summer,” Lang said. “And after we lost so many people last year, I thought I’d try to help where I could.”

Twenty Spokane County residents died in June 2021 during a record-breaking heat wave, when temperatures reached an all-time high of 109 degrees with overnight lows in the high 70s.

Grant Combs, who said he is experiencing homelessness, spent most of Sunday afternoon in the Central Library. He said he was grateful the city designated library branches as cooling centers, as it allowed him to fill his water bottle, charge his phone and use the free Wi-Fi provided at all library branches. He said he would like to see the city provide more cooling centers during future heat waves, particularly in areas more accessible to houseless residents in Spokane.

“I don’t think they really thought about us when they came up with their plan,” Combs said.

Down at the Rotary Fountain on Sunday afternoon, residents and tourists alike sought relief from the heat in the fountain, counted among the 19 splash pads located in Spokane public parks. Washington D.C. resident John Gomez and his two children spent the afternoon at the fountain with extended family members.

Gomez said they often come to Spokane to visit family, and he enjoys seeing how the city has grown or changed in between visits. He said the splash pads were a good way to get outside and cool off, while also keeping the children in the family entertained.

National Weather Service Meteorologist John Fox said temperatures will drop this week as the heat dome is broken up by a weather system north of Spokane. Similar to last year, the extended period of heat Spokane is experiencing 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.

Fox said Spokane is forecast to have a high of 99 degrees on Monday, and may break 100 degrees in some areas. If temperatures reach at least 100 degrees, it would be the first time Spokane has had more than four consecutive days of temperatures over 100 degrees since July 1928, when six consecutive days of 100-degree temperatures set the record for the longest span.

Haze, smoke could infiltrate region as fire danger increases

Fire will become a danger even as temperatures start to cool.

The weather service has issued a red flag warning for most of Central Washington on Monday and Tuesday, as dry, hot and breezy conditions could lead to rapid wildfire spread. A fire weather watch for Tuesday afternoon has been issued for most of Eastern Washington, including Spokane County, which Fox said may be upgraded to a red flag warning depending on what the forecast looks like as Tuesday approaches.

As wildfire season gets under way, Spokane is already seeing some smoke from two separate wildfires. Fox said smoke from the McKinney fire in Northern California, and smoke from the Keremeos fire in British Columbia settled over the Spokane area this weekend, resulting in the haze seen on the horizon Sunday evening.

Burn restrictions in Spokane County, issued by fire departments in the area, remain in effect. 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, 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.

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