Hot weather returns on anniversary of last year’s heat dome: Prepare for high temperatures and protect others; those most at-risk live alone, without AC

June 23, 2022

After a cool, rainy spring, the forecast is calling for the region’s first 90-degree days this weekend. Temperatures will begin rising Thursday into Friday, with the potential to top 90 degrees Saturday and Sunday. The first blast of heat in 2022 comes almost exactly one year after a record-breaking heat dome emergency killed 69 people in Multnomah County. 

Unlike last year, when temperatures reached 116 degrees, and topped 100 degrees for three consecutive days with little cooling overnight, this year’s first heat wave is expected to be less severe, lasting a couple days with lower overnight temperatures and drier air.

But heat can harm anyone, especially early in the year. One key factor in last year’s heat dome was how early it occurred — just one week into summer, before people’s bodies had a chance to adapt to summer weather.

“Globally we are more susceptible to high heat early in the year,” said Health Officer Dr. Jennifer Vines. “But within that elevated risk, there are people with certain medical and social risk factors whom we really worry about.”

Healthy adults might underestimate the effects of early-season heat on their outdoor plans. They might not bring enough water on a jog, or they might forget to take breaks during a soccer game. And if they do feel the effects of heat, they are more likely to bounce back with some water, salty snacks and shade. 

“I worry about the people who can’t escape the heat,” Vines said. “Outdoor workers, people who are homeless, people who are older, live alone and without air conditioning.”

Take care

High temperatures are not forecast to last beyond a few days. Nor will they be high enough overnight or during the day to reach the threshold levels that would lead Multnomah County and the City of Portland to open cooling shelters. But resources and other help will still be available this weekend. The County and its partners are directing people to information on:

  • How to get the latest information on what is happening and where to find help.
  • How to stay safe at home, indoors and outdoors.
  • How to find places to cool off, including free and low-cost places
  • How to look out for people at higher risk, elders, children and pets

The County is urging people — before the heat hits — to reach out to people who might be at risk, especially people who live alone and who don’t have a way to cool off in their own space. Talk with them about ways they can keep cool and seek out cool places — like a library, community center, movie theater or mall — and make a plan to check in with them during the warmest hours of day. That’s going to be particularly important this Saturday and Sunday.

Prepare for hot weather at home by investing in a fan or air cooling unit now, if you don’t already have one, and test it to make sure it works and you know how to use it. Check that you have coverings for windows that get direct sun, and close curtains and blinds early on days when temperatures are forecast to be high.

Heat Week Events

Even before this weekend’s forecast, health experts, climate advocates and elected officials were already inviting residents to join them in marking the region’s first annual “Heat Week,” running June 26 through June 30. Pedal past Portand’s heat islands, attend a virtual training on hot weather first aid, and stop to honor those who died during last year’s historical heat. 

  • Sunday, June 26: Memorial honoring those who died during the heat waves of 2021, 1 to 5 p.m., at the Leach Botanical Garden, 6704 S.E. 122nd Ave., Portland (get tickets)
  • Monday, June 27: Virtual panel featuring experts on climate and mental health (register here)
  • Tuesday, June 28: Climate Resilience Pedalpalooza Ride, 5 p.m., Lents Park to Colonel Summers Park
  • Wednesday, June 29: Heat first aid training, offered virtually by the Portland Bureau of Emergency Management.

Last year, the region experienced record-shattering heat that, by the end of summer, had killed 72 people in Multnomah County. Media are invited to join Multnomah County Health Officer Dr. Jennifer Vines, Multnomah County Commissioner Lori Stegmann, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and others for a commemoration at the Leach Botanical Gardens Sunday, June 26, from 1 to 5 p.m. 

A final report detailing the causes and conditions of those deaths is also set to be released June 26. Among the report’s findings:

  • All but three of last summer’s 72 heat-related deaths resulted from high temperatures during the last week of June.
  • That same week, deaths from all causes were double the normal level.
  • Heat-related emergency department and urgent care visits in 2021 were three times higher than during a typical year.
  • The people most vulnerable during that event were people who lived alone and in multifamily buildings, people who lived in warmer parts of Multnomah County or people who were experiencing homelessness or living in unstable housing. Fewer than 10% of those who died had air conditioning.

Bookmark these links

  • Help for When it's Hot: Latest information on cooling centers, health and safety.
  • 2-1-1 info: Call to find the cooling center nearest you, when cooling centers are open, and for transportation support.
  • Public Alerts: Sign up to receive health and safety alerts in your area.
  • National Weather Service: Check the forecast and plan outdoor activities for the coolest times of day.
  • Heat Risk Map: The National Weather Service has an updated map that forecasts heat risk for vulnerable populations.