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Illustration by Security Management

Heatwave Fries Pacific Northwest

An abnormally powerful heatwave is melting all-time high temperature records across the Pacific Northwest in the United States and Canada. Daytime temperatures reached well into the triple digits, with 112 degrees Fahrenheit (44.4 Celsius) on Sunday in Portland, Oregon, up from the previous record of 108 F the day before. In Lytton, British Columbia, temperatures reached 116 F (46.6 C), according to the BBC.

A heat warning is in effect in most of Western Canada, and the U.S. National Weather Service warned that “high temperatures are forecast to soar 30+ degrees above average throughout Washington and north-central Oregon to start the workweek, with temperatures peaking in the 100s and 110s.”

Today, forecasters predict that a hot wind will send temperatures in Seattle even higher—as high as 111 degrees, The Seattle Times reported. Portland is expected to reach 114 degrees, according to the Oregonian.

Across British Columbia, forecasters say humid conditions could make temperatures feel closer to 50 C (122 F), and more than a dozen school districts canceled classes today rather than convene students in non-air conditioned classrooms, The Globe and Mail reported.

There have been surges in electricity demand in British Columbia and the northwestern United States as residents and businesses struggle to keep air conditioners running. Portland General Electric said about 3,000 customers lost power in the greater Portland area Sunday afternoon, and Puget Sound Energy said that 3,400 customers were without power in the greater Seattle area, the Associated Press reported. As of Saturday, 31 people visited emergency departments in King County for heat-related illnesses; over the past three years, the highest daily number of heat-related emergency visits was nine, according to The Seattle Times.

To try to keep people cool and safe, Oregon eased some COVID-19 restrictions to open up swimming pools and air-conditioned areas like chipping centers, but one swimming pool in Seattle, Washington, closed early because pool deck temperatures had reached unsafe levels. Also in Washington, King County closed several COVID-19 testing sites because of the heat, but additional public library branches were reopened to provide more cooling centers, according to the AP. High temperatures also halted U.S. track and field Olympic qualifying events in Oregon, the BBC reported.

The “heat dome” of high pressure over the Pacific Northwest is expected to stretch further inland through western Montana and Idaho this week, and the National Weather Service said the area could suffer an extreme and prolonged heatwave.