Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Northwest heat wave: Volunteers provide water to vulnerable people

by Gillian Flacus

Portland, Ore. (AP) — Volunteers scramble to provide information about water, portable fans, popsicles and cooling shelters to homeless people living in isolated camps on the outskirts of Portland, Oregon, as the Pacific Northwest grapples with a heat wave Sweat was normally temperate zone.

Officials trying to provide relief to vulnerable people, including low-income older people and those living outside, are alert to a record-breaking heat wave in late June that killed hundreds in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. Took it when the thermometer went up to 116. degrees Fahrenheit (47 C).

In Portland, temperatures reached 102 F (39 C) by noon, and more heat was expected on Friday. It was hotter than Phoenix, where the elevation was 100 F (38 C) below normal in the desert city. In Seattle, the altitude was in the ’90s in an area where many don’t have air conditioning. In Bellingham, Washington, Thursday hit 100 F (38 C) for the first time on record.

The scorching sun also knocked in other parts of America this week. The National Weather Service said heat advisories and warnings are in effect for the Midwest to the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic through at least Friday. And in Michigan, heavy rains caused flooding, leaving nearly 1 million homes and businesses without electricity at one point Thursday in hot weather.

In Portland, a non-profit group that serves the homeless and people with mental illness uses three large vans to transport water and other cooling items to homeless camps along the Columbia River on the city’s eastern outskirts.

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Kim James, director of homelessness and housing support for Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare, said the effort was important because people experiencing homelessness are often reluctant to go to cooling centers.

Scott Zalitis, who was shirtless in the heat, grogged himself over the lime-green popsicles handed out by the group and told volunteers that his campsite temperature had reached 105 F (41 C) the day before. A giant cooler full of food broke down when all the ice melted and he could not find anything else to buy.

“It’s pathetic. I can’t stand the heat, no matter what. So, I mean, it’s hard to stand. It’s so hot even in the shade,” said Jalitis, who Was homeless last year when the apartment he rented a room in burned down in an electrical fire. “You want to be somewhere quiet, as nice as possible.”

The camp, where rusty cars and crumbling RVs were mixed with tents and rubbish piles, was the stark contrast to downtown Portland, where sweaty pedestrians raced through a large public fountain in a riverfront park. cooled down.

Luna Abadia, 17, had left Lincoln High School in the morning to train with her cross country team when the group stopped at the fountain for a few minutes. Runners typically train at 4 p.m., but in recent weeks, they’ve had to move it to 8 a.m. — and it’s still too hot, she said.

“It was very hot, sweating a lot. This is something that we have seen in the last one week,” Abadia said.

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Oregon Governor Kate Brown has declared a state of emergency and activated an emergency operations center, citing the potential for disruption to the electricity grid and transportation. City and county governments have opened cooling centers, extended public library hours, and waived bus fares for those visiting cooling centers. A 24-hour statewide help line will guide callers to the nearest cooling shelter and provide safety tips.

Back-to-back heat waves, coupled with a summer that is exceptionally hot and dry overall, is affecting an area with high summer temperatures typically in the 70s or 80s. flows in. Intense heat waves and a historic drought in the American West reflect climate change that is making the weather more extreme.

“For a heat wave, at this stage, it’s new territory,” said Dan Douthit, spokesman for the Portland Bureau of Emergency Communications. “We are known to be prone to earthquakes, we have fires, floods – but it looks like heat waves are becoming a very serious emergency.”

Abadia said the changes she has seen in her life due to climate change inspired her to start a youth-driven organization to involve more and more youth in the cause.

“Climate change is everything I’ve been thinking about for the past weeks,” she said. “This heat wave and wildfires we faced here a year ago – and still around the world – is a new reminder of exactly what we are facing and the need for immediate action.”


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