Pacific Northwest faces unusually long heat wave: 'I'm doing the classic popsicle diet'

The Pacific Northwest is experiencing what meteorologists believe will be an unusually long heat spell for the region, stretching into the weekend.

Seattle broke its record-high temperature Tuesday, reaching 94 degrees Fahrenheit. Portland, Oregon, hit 100 degrees Fahrenheit on Tuesday, and Gov. Kate Brown declared a state of emergency across much of the state.

The western Washington cities of Bellingham and Olympia also broke their heat records Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service.

Claire McArthur, a 23-year-old based in Portland, tried to keep cool Tuesday amid the soaring temperatures.

"I'm doing the classic popsicle diet and standing on a wet washcloth to regulate my body temperature," she told USA TODAY. When Portland hit a record-high temperature of 116 degrees last summer, she spent her days handing out frozen water bottles to people experiencing homelessness.

"The cooling centers we have are few and far between — they're helpful, but also fill up quickly," she said. "And it's just a really dangerous time for people outside."

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Both Portland and Seattle officials have opened cooling centers across the cities. Multnomah County, which includes Portland, will open four overnight emergency cooling shelters starting Tuesday night, said county spokesperson Kate Yeiser.

“We’re going to find space for anybody who needs it,” Yeiser said, adding that the sites have a “no-turn-away policy.”

“Heat-related illness daily visits are above expected levels statewide,” said Jonathan Modie, lead communications officer at the Oregon Health Authority’s Public Health Division. He said there were 32 such visits to emergency rooms on Monday compared to three to five per day before the heat wave began.

About 800 people died in a heat wave across Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia in 2021: many of those who died were older adults and lived alone. Oregon health officials said an increasing number of people have reported heat-related illness in emergency departments during this year's heat wave.

Boston, Philadelphia and several other Northeastern cities soared past their heat records earlier this week, resulting in at least two-heat related deaths. Persistent, sizzling heat in the south-central U.S. is expected to last a few more days, and a heat wave will build across the northwestern U.S., the National Weather Service said.

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Pacific Northwest heat wave to be multiday across Seattle, Portland