Rolling blackout for parts of US Northwest amid heat wave

Spokane, Wash. – The unprecedented Northwest US heat wave that slammed Seattle and Portland, Oregon moved inland on Tuesday – to warn an electric utility in Spokane, Washington that people face more rolling blackouts amid heavy power demand Will have to

The intense weather that gave Seattle and Portland consecutive record high temperatures of more than 100 degrees (37.7 degrees Celsius) was expected to subside in those cities. But inland Spokane was likely to surpass Monday’s high – a record 105 Fahrenheit (40.6 Celsius).

About 8,200 utility customers lost power Monday in parts of Spokane, and Avista Utilities warned that the city of about 220,000 people would have more rolling blackouts on Tuesday, with high temperatures predicted at 110 F (43.3 C) , which is the all-time record.

The company’s senior vice president for energy distribution, Heather Rosentrater, said Monday night that Avista had a much higher-than-normal demand, but the sweltering heat hit its limit faster than expected.

Temperatures in other eastern Washington and Oregon communities could reach nearly 115 degrees F (45.6 C) on Tuesday, a day after Seattle and Portland broke all-time heat records.

Seattle hit 108 degrees Fahrenheit (42 C) as of Monday evening — up from Sunday’s all-time high of 104 F (40 C). Portland, Oregon, peaked at 116 F (46.6 C) after hitting records of 108 F (42 C) on Saturday and 112 F (44 C) on Sunday.

Temperatures have been unheard of in an area better known for rain, and where June has historically been called “June” for cold drizzle. Seattle’s average high temperature in June is about 70 F (21.1 C), and less than half of the city’s residents have air conditioning, according to U.S. Census data.

The heat forced schools and businesses to close on Monday to protect workers and guests, including some places such as outdoor pools and ice cream shops seeking respite from the heat. COVID-19 testing sites and mobile vaccination units were also out of service.

The Seattle Parks Department closed an indoor community pool after the air inside got too hot—except for Stanley James, who relocated from Arizona three weeks ago, to find somewhere to cool off. She said her condo doesn’t have AC.

James said, “One of the reasons I came here was to come not only to be near my daughter, but also to get a respite from the Arizona heat in the summer. And I brought it with me. So I’m not real thrilled.”

The heat wave caused what meteorologists described as a high pressure dome over the northwest and worsened by human-caused climate change, which is making such extreme weather events more likely and more intense.

The Pacific Northwest has warmed about 3 degrees Fahrenheit (1.7 degrees Celsius) over the past half century, said Zeke Hausfather, a scientist at the climate-data nonprofit Berkeley Earth.

That means the heat wave is now about 3 degrees warmer than before — and the difference between 111 degrees and 114 is significant, especially for vulnerable populations, he said.

“In a world without climate change, this would still be a really extreme heat wave,” Hausfather said. “It’s worse than the same event that would have happened 50 years ago, and especially so.”

The scorching heat has exposed an area for which infrastructure has not been prepared, pointing to the greater costs of climate change to come.

“We’re not for this,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said in an interview on MSNBC.

He said that “we have to deal with the source of this problem, which is climate change.”

In Portland, light rail and street car service were suspended on Monday as power lines melted and electricity demand soared.

The heat-related expansion caused road pavement to break or loosen in several areas, including the Seattle Highway. Workers in tanker trucks clog bridges with water twice a day, preventing the steel from dissipating in the heat and interfering with their opening and closing mechanisms.

Democratic US Sen. Maria Cantwell said in a statement that the Northwest heat reflects the urgent need for an upcoming federal infrastructure package to promote clean energy, cut greenhouse gas emissions and protect people from extreme heat.

“Washington State was not built for three-digit temperatures,” she said.


Johnson reported from Seattle


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