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Regional Interests

Cooling centers extend hours in Portland area as temperatures climb

Temperatures in the Portland area are surpassing uncomfortable and reaching dangerous levels. Multnomah County opened three cooling centers Friday. Centers will be staged at the Oregon Convention Center, The Sunrise Center and at the Arbor Lodge Shelter in North Portland. The cooling centers will be open through at least Monday.

“We’re really worried about the forecast that is clearly showing high triple digits that are potential record breaking,” Multnomah County Health Officer Dr. Jennifer Vines said. “That’s concerning not just because of how high the temperature is going to be, but also because cooling overnight, it’s not going to be that cool.”

The cooling centers are open 24 hours. Multnomah County also announced five library locations will be open until 6 p.m. Friday and from noon to 8 p.m. Saturday through Monday. Anyone who is need of a cool space is invited to utilize the centers.

“That could be people who live outside who need to just give their bodies a break from the heat, it could be people who live in an apartment without air conditioning, who are elderly and who need a place to go to get cool,” Vines said.

Vines said reducing the amount of time people are exposed to extreme heat is of the upmost importance. People can call 211 if they need a ride to a cooling center in Multnomah County, or if they need any help with resources during the heat wave, “so people don’t have to travel in the heat in order to get some place to cool off,” Vines said.

The cooling centers did not open last summer, due to COVID-19 concerns. This year health officials decided the risk of heat-related illness was too great. While social distancing and masks will be required at the centers, no one will be turned away.

“At this point, COVID precautions are still a concern, but they really take a back seat to the risk that the heat poses heading into the weekend,” Vines said.

High temperatures can cause heat illness or even death in extreme cases. The elderly, children, pets and people who work outdoors are especially susceptible to heat illness.

“Some early signs of heat illness are just things like feeling thirsty, you may have a headache, you may feel queasy or dizzy,” Vines said.

Vines said that getting someone to a cool place and getting them hydrated is crucial in the early stages of heat illness.

“But if someone is really disoriented, confused or not responding, don’t assume that they are intoxicated,” Vines said. “In these kinds of temperatures, assume that that’s a heat emergency and call 911.”

Vines also said that people should avoid strenuous activity during peak temperatures in the day and stay hydrated.

“I think the main message is for folks to have a plan to stay cool and to include in their plan checking on other people and seeing how they can offer to help others during this time, because this is a direct stress on our bodies and our physical health,” Vines said.

Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting