From the Archives: Heat response continues as residents are urged to seek cool spaces

August 18, 2022

Chair Deborah Kafoury hands out cooling kits with Bienestar de la Familia staff in Cully Wednesday.

With temperatures nearing 100 degrees for the second day in a row, Multnomah County and the City of Portland are urging people to take advantage of free cooling spaces today, including at libraries, splash pads, fountains and the Lloyd Center. 

The County, working with the Joint Office of Homeless Services and service provider Do Good Multnomah, is also opening a cooling space from 2 to 10 p.m. today in Old Town, for the second day in a row.

Even a few hours in air conditioning can help people recover and avoid heat-related illness. Check out available cooling options on Multnomah County’s interactive map: People should call 211 to learn what transportation options are available. 

The National Weather Service has issued a Heat Advisory for most of Multnomah County until 10 p.m. today, Thursday, Aug. 18. Temperatures are expected to be a degree or two higher than originally forecast, thanks to clouds acting like a blanket to hold heat over the region. That effect helped push overnight temperatures higher than expected, cooling only to 74 degrees at Portland International International Airport. That broke the previous daily record for the warmest low temperature overnight, 65 degrees.

Cooling is expected to begin tonight, with typical temperatures returning Saturday and Sunday.

Health officials are urging people who must work outside or who plan to recreate to drink more water and dress appropriately before they begin activities during the heat of the day. People running errands should try to do so during cooler hours. And when you leave your car on a hot day, take every person and pet with you.

“Being younger or in better physical condition does not necessarily protect you from the dangers of heat,” said Dr. Jennifer Vines, Multnomah County Health Officer. “But making small changes can help: drinking more water, taking frequent breaks and spending time in a cool place can help you avoid heat-related illness.”

Watch a message from Dr. Jennifer Vines and Olga Topete on heat awareness and cooling kits:



Air quality and smoke risks

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and Southwest Clean Air Agency today issued an air quality advisory for Portland-Vancouver due to elevated levels of ozone pollution, or smog. 

DEQ expects ozone pollution to reach levels Thursday afternoon that could be unhealthy for sensitive groups, including children, seniors, pregnant women, and people with heart disease or respiratory conditions. DEQ expects the air quality advisory to last until Thursday night.

Health officials recommend people in sensitive groups limit outdoor activity when pollution levels are high.

Officials also urge all residents to protect their health and limit activities that cause pollution. Recommendations include: 

  • Limit driving by using public transit, carpooling or other alternative transportation.
  • Avoid unnecessary engine idling. 
  • Refuel vehicles during cooler evening hours. 
  • Postpone mowing the lawn or using leaf blowers.
  • Postpone painting and aerosol spray projects.

Multnomah County Environmental Health is also monitoring air quality levels. Today’s burn level is “yellow,” which means people are asked to limit wood burning in wood stoves or fireplaces.

Effective since July 25, there is a mandatory outdoor burn ban for safety issued by the Multnomah County Fire Defense Board in all areas of Multnomah County. Until further notice, this includes recreational campfires, fire pits, yard debris, agricultural burning, and permits issued for open burning. Use extreme caution when cooking outside. Check with your local fire department for more information, or to report a fire.

Check your local air quality online.

Toxic algae bloom in Willamette River 

People and pets should take care to avoid a toxic algae bloom affecting part of the Willamette River in North Portland. The Oregon Health Authority has issued a health advisory for the Willamette River near Cathedral Park due to the presence of a cyanobacteria bloom and cyanotoxin levels above safe levels.

The major risk of exposure comes from ingesting water. People should particularly avoid swimming and high-speed water activities, such as water skiing or power boating, in areas of the river with blooms. These toxins are not absorbed through the skin. However, if you have skin sensitivities, you may get a puffy red rash.

This advisory is currently limited to the Cathedral Park area, based on available data. State officials will collect additional samples over the next few days to better define the extent of the public health advisory. People should be aware that the bloom and associated toxins may have originated upstream and may spread downstream beyond the area around Cathedral Park. OHA recommends that people keep an eye out for visible signs of blooms in other areas of the river and stay out of the water in locations with visible scum.

Outreach teams from the Joint Office of Homeless Services are spreading the word to those living outside that drinking water directly from areas of the river affected by a bloom is especially dangerous. Toxins cannot be removed by boiling, filtering or treating water with camping-style filters. Portland Parks & Recreation are posting signs at the Cathedral Park area and dog park.

Children and pets at particular risk

Because of their size and levels of activity, children and pets are at increased risk for exposure to the toxins. Dogs can get extremely ill and even die within minutes to hours of exposure to cyanotoxins by drinking water, licking their wet fur, or eating the toxins from floating mats or dried crust along the shore. This is regardless of a recreational use health advisory in place.

Read more from OHA and Multnomah County Animal Services.

Libraries available as cooling spaces today

Libraries across Multnomah County are open as cool spaces during their regular hours. Staff will also be handing out bottled water. For the most up-to-date list of library locations and hours, go to (Central Library downtown will remain closed due to a renovation project that began Aug. 1.)

Daytime cooling center, Lloyd Center open today

Because Central Library remains under construction and unavailable as a daytime cooling space, a cooling center will open in Old Town on Thursday from 2 to 10 p.m. The cooling center is pet-friendly and will provide food, water, cooling items and places to rest. Anyone who needs a free ride to a cool space can dial 2-1-1.

And the Lloyd Center will extend its hours until 9 p.m. Thursday to serve as an additional site where people can come inside and cool off.

COVID-19 is still spreading in our community. To limit the spread of the virus, staff and guests will be asked to wear masks in the cooling center. Staff will work to accommodate guests who might need assistance with wearing a mask. Masks are available on site.

Other cool spaces

Other options including splash pads and community centers will be open Wednesday as usual. Community and arts centers managed by Portland Parks & Recreation allow anyone to enter and cool off, at no charge, during normal facility operating hours.

Guests who aren’t able to pay an admission fee can congregate in building lobbies and/or any other designated areas in indoor facilities to allow recreational programing to continue.

Find cooling options on Multnomah County’s interactive map:

Outreach to unsheltered community members

The Joint Office of Homeless Services on Monday, Aug. 15, began working with outreach teams, mutual aid groups and community volunteers to bring hot weather gear to people without shelter across Multnomah County.

Among the items the Joint Office distributed from Aug. 15 through Wednesday, Aug. 17: more than 40,000  bottles of water, 4,400 electrolyte packets, 2,800 packets of sunscreen, nearly 1,800 cooling towels, nearly 900 refillable bottles, nearly 900 misting bottles, and more than 330 cans of insect repellent.

Throughout three heat events this so far summer – including July’s record stretch of consecutive 90-plus-degree days – the Joint Office supply center has distributed more than 235,000 bottles of water. 

Cooling kits delivered to at-risk residents

The Department of County Human Services has so far this week distributed more than 2,000 cooling kits to at-risk residents, including seniors, people with disabilities and culturally specific partners.

The kits – containing cooling towels, hot/cold gel packs, electrolyte packets, ice cube trays, water bottles, misting bottles, and magnets with tips to stay cool – have been shared with individuals through the Health Department and County Human Services, as well as nonprofit partners.

What partners are doing

Metro has resumed normal hours and operations at all garbage and recycling facilities. Find the latest updates at Metro’s website

Bookmark these links