From the archives: County expands Cooling Centers, hours ahead of dangerous weekend heat

June 24, 2021

Amid serious concerns that this weekend’s record-breaking heat wave will become even more dangerous because of unseasonably warm night temperatures — with lows expected to match our average highs for this time of year — Multnomah County will operate three of its cooling shelters 24 hours a day starting Friday afternoon. 

At the same time, Multnomah County Library has expanded hours at all five of its currently open branches so they can serve as cooling locations through the weekend. 

“Heat is such a torment. It's hard on your body and it's hard on people emotionally,” said Health Officer Dr. Jennifer Vines. “Even just for a few hours in a cooling center can help people cope with the heat.”

Officials are especially concerned about people without air conditioning in their homes, particularly those who live on the upper stories of high-rise apartment buildings, where air conditioning units may not be permitted. 

Vines urged those residents to plan now: find a room in the building that may be cooler, connect with another tenant and plan to check on one another, and consider spending the hottest hours at a cooling center. 

Anyone who needs transportation to a cooling center should call 2-1-1. No one will be turned away. For updates on cooling center locations and hours, visit Help for When it’s Hot

Cooling Centers

Open 24 hours, starting at 1 p.m. Friday, June 25

Library branches

Open noon to 6 p.m., Friday, June 25, and noon to 8 p.m. Saturday through Monday

In addition, Trimet — while still encouraging people to pay their fares whenever they can — will not turn away anyone looking to escape the heat if they don’t have money for their fare.

An excessive heat watch is in effect through early next week, and health officials are warning people to seek air-conditioned spaces and shade, and to help their more vulnerable neighbors find relief.

What to expect at Cooling Centers

Cooling centers will open Friday, June 25th at 1 p.m. to people and their pets. 

Dogs enjoy a break from wildfire smoke at a Red Cross shelter at the OCC in September, 2020

COVID-19 precautions will be in place to the extent possible, while prioritizing the immediate risk of life-threatening heat. No one will be turned away. Staff will be masked and will ask guests to put on a mask when they are cool enough to do so.

“The most important thing is to get people out of the heat and cooled off,” Vines said.

Cooling Centers will provide water, snacks and meals. Chairs, sleeping mats and blankets will be provided. Cots are available for people with access and functional needs. People may consider bringing books, games and other comfort items.

While Multnomah County Animal Services can provide crates, litter boxes, bedding and other supplies — pet owners are encouraged to bring their own necessities such as food, water, water bowls, waste bags, toys and leashes.