EVERETT — Concerns about wildfires, safety and public health are rising as record-breaking temperatures are forecast in the Pacific Northwest through Monday, with the Everett area predicted to reach highs in the upper 90s — with the potential to break 100.
The duration of the heat, along with unusually warm nights, will leave the region with little to no relief, according to the National Weather Service in Seattle. The agency has issued an excessive heat warning with “high to very high risk” of heat-related illnesses for much of the population.
“It’s completely off the charts of what we’ve experienced before,” said Joe Boomgard-Zagrodnik, a postdoctoral researcher in agricultural meteorology at Washington State University. “We’re set to have the warmest air mass the Pacific Northwest has experienced in recorded history.”
This heat wave comes as average summer temperatures have risen in Washington throughout the past century, with the highest average temperature statewide occurring in 2015.
Washington’s night temperatures have warmed faster than daytime temperatures, a pattern signature of climate change-related warming and a hazardous problem as warmer nights limit the ability for a cool respite in between scorching days.
And while meteorologists say it’s hard to tell if climate change directly causes specific weather events like this one, overall temperatures are rising, driving the extremes to become more extreme more often.
“If we can hit 105 degrees in Seattle, in June, with the cold waters of Puget Sound next to us, what is possible?” Boomgard-Zagrodnik said. “What will a potential heat wave look like 20 to 40 years in the future?”
(Don’t) feel the burn
Due to the hot weather and high fire danger, the Snohomish County fire marshal has announced an outdoor burning ban for unincorporated Snohomish County. It began Friday morning and will be in place until further notice.
The following cities are also enforcing the burn ban: Arlington, Brier, Darrington, Edmonds, Everett, Granite Falls, Gold Bar, Index, Lynnwood, Marysville, Mill Creek, Mountlake Terrace, Monroe, Mukilteo, Snohomish, Stanwood and Sultan. Island County also has imposed a burn ban.
The restriction bans outdoor burning, such as agricultural debris, but does not include recreational fires used for pleasure and cooking only. However, recreational fires must be less than three feet in diameter and two feet high and contained in an approved, non-combustible enclosure. The fire must be monitored at all times and have a readily available water source.
Despite being allowed, the fire marshal’s office urges people to use caution before lighting recreational fires due to significant wildfire risks across the region.
Beat the heat
In a relatively temperate region like the Pacific Northwest, high temperatures for prolonged periods can be especially hard for those who are less acclimated and adapted to hot weather.
“It’s hard to keep our homes very cool. A lot of us have fans, but they might not be too effective when we’re talking about temperatures in the high 90s,” said Logan Johnson, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service.
According to the 2015 U.S. Census Bureau’s American Housing Survey, only a third of households in the Seattle metropolitan area had air conditioning, compared to 89% nationwide.
Johnson suggests avoiding being outside during the hottest parts of the day, and if you don’t have air conditioning, get to a place that does for at least a few hours, if you can.
To keep your home cool, closing your blinds, shades or curtains will help keep the sun’s rays out. The Washington Emergency Management Division also suggests weather-stripping doors and windows, using aluminum foil-covered cardboard in windows to reflect heat outside, and adding insulation to keep heat out.
The county also lists more than three dozen cool places to go to take refuge from the heat, including many libraries.
Sno-Isle Libraries on Friday afternoon announced some changes in hours during the heat wave.
On Sunday, community libraries in Lynnwood, Marysville and Mukilteo will open three hours early at 10 a.m. for those who need to cool off with air conditioning. Normal Sunday hours are 1-5 p.m. The Langley Library, normally closed on Sundays, will be open from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. this Sunday as a cooling center.With high temperatures of 96, 100 and 104 predicted for Saturday, Sunday and Monday in Arlington and Lake Stevens, Sno-Isle Libraries will close the Arlington Library and the Lake Stevens Library “pop-up” at Lundeen Park from through Monday. Neither facility has air conditioning.
The Snohomish County Public Utility District is anticipating energy demand to be at its monthly high on Monday. Energy demand peaks after noon and before 10 p.m., the PUD said in a news release. PUD customers can try to conserve energy during those times by washing dishes, running laundry and taking showers in the morning or late at night.
Other hot weather tips by the National Weather Service:
• Slow down. Reduce, eliminate or reschedule strenuous activities until the coolest time of the day.
• Dress for summer. Wear lightweight, loose-fitting, light-colored clothing to reflect heat and sunlight.
• Minimize direct exposure to the sun. Sunburn reduces your body’s ability to dissipate heat.
• Eat light, cool, easy-to-digest foods such as fruit or salads.
• Drink plenty of water (not very cold), non-alcoholic and decaffeinated fluids, even if you don’t feel thirsty.
Staying safe while staying cool
With all this in mind, officials have important reminders to ensure you stay safe while you stay cool.
As temperatures rise, more people are inclined to open windows. However, an open window — even with a screen — can prove fatal for young children.
Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, part of UW Medicine, has treated five children for window-fall-related injuries in the past few weeks alone, including a Marysville toddler who was airlifted to the hospital. Each year, Harborview’s Pediatric Trauma Care Center treats around 50 children after such falls.
Harborview pediatrician Dr. Beth Ebel says screens give a “false sense of security” and are the equivalent of “putting a tiny piece of tissue paper over a gaping hole.”
“Find a way to limit the opening of that window in your kid’s room,” Ebel said. “These are inexpensive devices that you can get from the hardware center to stop those sliders from opening or limit the crank window.”
Are you heading out for a last-minute getaway or trip to the store? Don’t leave people or animals in cars, even with the windows cracked, because this does not significantly decrease the heat inside. A dark dashboard or car seat can reach 180 degrees or higher, heating the surrounding air and trapping it inside the vehicle.
And while the cool waters of Puget Sound or local rivers may sound enticing, much of it is melted snow from the mountains and can be surprisingly — and dangerously — cold.
“Especially since it is still June, a lot of the waters have not really warmed up to as warm as they might be later in the summer,” said Johnson, the meteorologist. “It is possible for people to go into a cold water shock very quickly, and that’s a very dangerous circumstance.”
Life jackets are essential for even experienced swimmers. Cold shocks can cause dramatic changes in breathing, heart rate and blood pressure, and the sudden gasp and rapid breathing increase drowning possibilities. If you do go into a cold shock, the life jacket will keep you floating.
Additionally, know the signs of heat-related illnesses such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke — as well as the steps to treat them — to prevent further health hazards and even death.
Everyone is affected by the heat, but some populations are affected more than others. Older adults, infants, people with chronic medical conditions and pregnant women are all at higher risk for serious health problems during extreme heat events.
“One thing we need to do as a community is check on our neighbors who may be more fragile,” said Dr. Ryan Keay, emergency room medical director for Providence Regional Medical Center Everett. “Check in and make sure they’re OK, particularly here, where people are more spread out in Snohomish County.”
Hannah Sheil: firstname.lastname@example.org