Outer East Portland swelters under ‘Heat Dome’

Here’s what was behind the unprecedented heat wave that made neighbors from Argay Terrace, to Hazelwood, to Powellhurst-Gilbert swelter for three record-breaking days. And, see our list of places to splash, and stay cool …

-1 Temperatures soar beyond all previous records in outer East Portland, as indicated on the landmark Division Crossing sign.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Not even waiting for the arrival of July, cloudless skies and sizzling, desert-like hot summer temperatures arrived in the outer East Portland area in the last week of June.

-2 The official East Portland News weather station Taylor® thermometer,  shows how hot it got one afternoon last week..

Official temperatures posted by the National Weather Service (NWS) Portland office, located in Parkrose were:

June 25: 94°
June 26: 108°  (breaking the old all-time record of 107°)
June 27: 112°  (breaking the new all-time record of 108°)
June 28: 116°  (breaking the new all-time record of 112°)
June 29: 92°

That 116° reading was the second highest temperature recorded in the entire United States on June 28 – second only to the 117° reading 45 miles south, in Salem.

The landmark heat wave finally broke shortly after the peak of 116° on June 28, when a shift of the east wind around to the west brought in cooler coastal air, and a drop of over 25 degrees in less than three hours. By June 30, the daily high was a pleasant 78°.

Some folks beat the heat by taking out paddleboards into the Willamette River.

 ‘Heat Dome’ blamed for scorching temperatures
Although summer officially began on June 20, temperatures usually don’t rise to uncomfortable levels until August or September. And never in local records have they ever risen even close to the record-breaking temperatures recorded July 26-28.

To find out what caused this unprecedented heat wave, we turned to NWS Meteorologist Rebecca Muessle: “You’ve probably heard the term ‘heat dome’, used to describe the unseasonably warm temperatures we’ve experienced over the past few days.

“One can think of a ‘heat dome’ as the total opposite of a winter ‘polar vortex’; instead of a low barometric pressure center bringing in cold air from the north, the ‘heat dome’ is a high pressure center that has built up over our area,” Muessle told East Portland News.

Due to COVID-19 coronavirus restrictions, we couldn’t enter the National Weather Services Portland office, located here, in the Parkrose neighborhood – but a friendly and knowledgeable NWS Meteorologist filled us in on the heat wave.

Some water features, such as here, in Essex Park are modest, but still provide a fun and cool experience for little kids.

“Usually, the ground and lower elevations will warm under clear skies during long, summer days; but it’s moderated by cooler temperatures aloft at, say, 5,000 feet,” Muessle explained. “But, with hot air moving from the desert southwest up into Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia, the distance downward of the hot air was very deep; giving us a ‘double-whammy’ of warm air.”

In addition, the meteorologist added, there was a “thermal low” off the coast, delaying cooler marine airflows from dislodging the heat bubble. “Because the onshore westerly flow wasn’t there, we saw very little reprieve,” Muessle said.

This interactive fountain, a great hot weather attraction at Gateway Discovery Park, both cools and entertains all.

A sweltering summer?
The National Weather Service’s three month outlook, made on June 17, showed above normal temperatures for most of the west, revealed Muessle.

“Our probability of warmer-than-typical temperatures over the summer is about 40% –partly due to the fact we’re already seeing warm temperatures,” explained Muessle. “But, this early onset of record high temperatures and the warmer trend does not mean we’ll be revisiting record temperatures all summer long!”

To check the NWS 7-day forecast for outer East Portland,
see their official website: CLICK HERE.

Stay cool at PP&R ‘Splash Pads’

A welcome summertime feature at Raymond Park is the “Spray Hoops” water feature.

In time for the heat wave, Portland Parks & Recreation opened interactive fountains and “Splash Pads” for the season. Here’s where to find one near you:

Earl Boyles Park
East of SE 107th Avenue and Francis Street
Portland, OR 97266 > Get Directions

Gateway Discovery Park
10520 NE Halsey Street
Portland, OR 97220 > Get Directions

Luuwit View Park
NE 127th Avenue and NE Fremont Street
Portland, OR 97230 > Get Directions

Raymond Park
SE 118th Avenue and Raymond Street
Portland, OR 97266 > Get Directions

Stay cool, and have a delightful summer!

© 2021 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™


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