Spokane reached its hottest temperature of the year at 102 degrees on Sunday as the ongoing heatwave affecting the country’s northwest stretches into another week.
The Spokane National Weather Service has extended its excessive heat warning for the interior northwest through Monday evening, with temperatures expected to cool on Tuesday. After temperatures soared above 100 degrees on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the Weather Service forecast high temperatures in the low 90s in Spokane through Tuesday.
“This park is great for us too,” says Sarah McLain as she swims in the Spokane River with her dog Sal at Riverstone Dog Park in Coeur d’Alene on Sunday, July 31, 2022. (kathy plonka)
The City of Spokane and Mayor Nadine Woodward have extended use of Spokane Public Library branches as cooldown centers through Monday night, in accordance with an ordinance passed by the Spokane City Council last year that requires the city to open cooldown centers when the temperature is forecast be above 95 degrees for at least two days in a row.
Central, Shadle Park, Liberty Park, and Hillyard Libraries are open Monday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and are the city’s four official chilling centers.
Cool Spokane, a grassroots initiative led by local advocacy groups, nonprofits, and other organizations working with Spokane’s homeless community, has also established makeshift cooling centers throughout the city. Some locations are indoors, like that of Compassionate Addiction Treatment at their South Division Street location, while others are housed in shaded tents, like the location next to Spokane City Hall near Riverfront Park.
Courtney Lang, a 20-year-old volunteer in the shaded tent next to Riverfront Park, distributed bottled water and snacks to those in need on Sunday afternoon.
Lang said she’s volunteered at Cool Spokane in various locations over the past four days, typically working three to four-hour shifts. She heard about the effort when she saw a local news station and decided to volunteer to give back to the community she grew up in. Lang is a student at California Polytechnic State University and will be returning when classes begin this fall.
“I feel like people understand that the cold could kill you in the winter, but they don’t think about how the heat could kill you in the summer,” Lang said. “And after losing so many people last year, I thought I’d try to help where I can.”
Twenty Spokane County residents died in June 2021 during a record-breaking heatwave when temperatures hit an all-time high of 109 degrees and hit overnight lows in the high 70s.
Grant Combs, who said he was homeless, spent most of Sunday afternoon at the Central Library. He said he’s grateful that the city has designated library branch offices as refrigeration centers because they allowed him to fill his water bottle, charge his phone, and use the free Wi-Fi provided in all library branch offices. He said he would like to see the city provide more cooling centers during future heat waves, particularly in areas that are more accessible to homeless Spokane residents.
“I don’t think they really thought of us when they came up with their plan,” Combs said.
Down at the Rotary Fountain on Sunday afternoon, residents and tourists alike sought relief from the heat at the Rotary Fountain, one of 19 splash pads in Spokane’s public parks. Washington DC resident John Gomez and his two children spent the afternoon with extended family at the fountain.
Gomez said they often come to Spokane to visit family, and he enjoys seeing how the city has grown or changed between visits. He said the splash pads are a great way to get outside and cool off while also keeping the kids in the family entertained.
National Weather Service meteorologist John Fox said temperatures will drop this week as the heat dome is broken up by a weather system north of Spokane. Similar to last year, Spokane’s prolonged heat spell is due to a high-pressure zone known as a heat dome. These form when the high pressure in the upper atmosphere acts as a lid, preventing hot air from escaping and sinking to the Earth’s surface.
Fox said Spokane is expected to peak 99 degrees Monday and break 100 degrees in some areas. If temperatures reach at least 100 degrees, it would be the first time Spokane has had temperatures above 100 degrees for more than four consecutive days since July 1928, marking six consecutive days with temperatures of 100 degrees and setting the record for longest length of time.
Haze, smoke could enter region as fire risk increases
Fire becomes a hazard even as temperatures begin to drop.
The Weather Service issued a red flag warning for most of central Washington Monday and Tuesday as dry, hot and windy conditions could lead to wildfires spreading rapidly. A Tuesday afternoon fire weather warning has been issued for most of eastern Washington, including Spokane County, which Fox said could be upgraded to a red flag warning depending on what the forecast looks like as Tuesday approaches.
As wildfire season begins, Spokane is already seeing some smoke from two separate wildfires. Fox said smoke from the McKinney fire in northern California and smoke from the Keremeos fire in British Columbia settled over the Spokane area this weekend, resulting in the haze seen on the horizon Sunday night.
Spokane County burn restrictions enacted by fire departments in the area remain in effect. Open burning and outdoor recreational fires in a fire pit are prohibited in Spokane County. Fire in portable appliances with a chimney, such as B. patio heaters are still allowed.
According to a press release from authorities, anyone violating the burn restriction can be charged with a misdemeanor.