105 degrees: Heat wave hits the Gorge

Young swimmers enjoy the Columbia River at a designated swim area on the Hood River Waterfront. Swim areas like this offer a fun escape from the summer heat, and a safe one.

Photo by Kirby Neumann-Rea
Young swimmers enjoy the Columbia River at a designated swim area on the Hood River Waterfront. Swim areas like this offer a fun escape from the summer heat, and a safe one.

Blistering temperatures have come in what’s set to be Hood River’s hottest week in several years.

Over the weekend, the National Weather Service station in Portland issued a heat advisory for the Pacific Northwest that includes Hood River County.

What meteorologists originally slated as an “excessive heat watch” was upgraded to a warning — in effect from Tuesday afternoon through Friday evening for forecasted areas.

Forecasts anticipate temperatures will climb into the triple digits, peaking at around 105 Wednesday and Thursday. Friday may still be near or above 100. Overnight lows will be in the mid 60s to low 70s through Thursday night.

Given the intense heat, public health departments and emergency service officials are urging people to take precautions to avoid heat-related illness.

Staff at NWS told Hood River County emergency officials in a July 29 weather briefing, obtained by the News:

“Very hot conditions are expected to occur during most of this week across the interior, with the hottest temperatures Wednesday and Thursday. In addition to the daytime heat, overnight temperatures will be very warm.”

The agency noted the multi-day hot streak will strike a possible health hazard, “especially to those who work outdoors, are engaged in prolonged outdoor activities, or do not have access to air conditioning in the home.”

Heat is the number one weather-related killer in the United States, resulting in hundreds of fatalities each year, a Center for Disease Control report states. The most vulnerable individuals are those who work or exercise outdoors, adults over 65, infants and children under 4, the homeless or poor, and people with a chronic medical condition.

Some school activities — such as sports practices — have been rescheduled due to the scorcher temperatures.

Tom Ames, Hood River Valley High School athletic director, said the Oregon School Activities Association sends out text alerts to schools in these scenarios. “We … follow those protocols,” he noted.

OSAA recommends schools stop outside activity in practice or play if temperatures reach 105 degrees. The organization also has a set of guidelines for postponing practices at high temperatures in general.

In addition to the rules, “Each of our coaches is trained to recognize symptoms and to respect heat as a potential danger to student-athletes,” Ames said.

He said students can keep in touch with their coaches for up to date notices on practice times.

Stay Cool

Cooling stations will offer a respite from the brutally hot days this week.

Hood River County Library District is once again welcoming people to avoid the heat at Hood River Library. The library will act officially as a cooling shelter.

“People coming to get out of the heat will get air conditioning, access to water, and lots of comfortable places to sit down and rest,” Rachel Fox, library director, said.

The library is open as a cooling shelter during its regular open hours: Tuesday-Thursday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Friday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, contact the Hood River County Library District at 541-386-2535, info@hoodriverlibrary.org, or visit their website at hoodriverlibrary.org.

Another cooling station will be at Hood River Senior Center, 2010 Sterling Place, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. Visit www.Hoodriverseniorcenter.org, or call 541-386-2060 for more information.

The Hood River Aquatic Center also serves as a way to beat the heat. Open swim hours run from 1 to 5 p.m. every day. Details about scheduled swims are posted online at www.hoodriverparksandrec.org/aquatic-center-schedule.

Forests, fire danger

Local industrial timberland companies have announced closures to public entry in Klickitat, Skamania, Yakima, Hood River and Wasco counties starting Aug. 5, due to conditions of high fire danger. The closure is in effect until further notice.

The closure includes the areas of Hood River Mountain (east of Hood River), Burdoin Mountain and Underwood Mountain and affects all lands owned or managed by the following parties: American Forest Management (DGS Timber, LLC), Brought Lumber Company, Hancock Forest Management (John Hancock Life Insurance and Manulife), Kreps Ranch, Kreps Family LLC, Stevenson Land Company (SDS), and Western Pacific Timber, LLC.

Meanwhile, the only large wildfire in Hood River County — the Indian Creek Fire west of Cascade Locks — was burning 74 acres but showing a minor amount of smoke as of Monday.

However, fire crews took precautions due to upcoming hot temperatures, dropping “many buckets of water … on the fire,” according to an email from the multi-agency team that has been combatting that fire.

Ground access has been impossible due to steep terrain, so bucket drops have been the primary attack strategy.

“Despite the Indian creek Fire’s current benign behavior, firefighters are looking ahead at what scenarios may occur when the fire comes up out of that deep, steep canyon … these and many other questions are being pursued by the firefighters so that they won’t be surprised by future fire behavior,” the Indian Creek Fire team said.

Crews have said they expect to be monitoring the fire for a long period of time, possibly until rain or snow eases the situation.

Popular trails, including the Pacific Crest Trail and Eagle Creek Trail, run along the fire’s expanse — sections have been closed, and are marked by signage. Portland’s main watershed, Bull Run, is about three miles away from the fire.

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