Sweltering outer East Portlanders crowd Community Center pool

Find out why it’s been hotter than blazes – when it will cool off – and what folks are doing to cool off during the heat wave, if they can’t get away to the mountains or the beach …

How hot is it? The sign on the Bank of the West building at on SE 82nd Avenue of Roses at SE Division Street tells the story.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Records were set during the last week of July with 106º temperatures recorded two days in a row – and a record “high low temperature” of 74º, when it didn’t cool off much in Wednesday morning’s early hours, July 29.

According to Charles Dalton, meteorologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service office on NE 122nd Avenue, “It’s not our typical summertime weather, but close to what we’d expect here in Portland during late July.”

Minutes before midnight, the Division Center sign at SE 122nd Avenue and SE Division Street indicates it will be another sweltering night in outer East Portland.

The jet stream, a high altitude wind that moves weather patterns from west to east, has snaked high up into Canada, Dalton told us.

“This keeps the high pressure system – usually associated with fair weather – ‘parked’ overhead. Thus, low pressure systems that bring rain showers haven’t had a chance of coming close to us. We expect this stagnant pattern to gradually change over the next week or so.”

Thousands of outer East Portlanders agree that a dip in the East Portland Community Center’s recreational pool is a delightful experience on a hot summer day – or evening.

Portland Parks to the rescue
For those who couldn’t leave town to escape the blistering heat – or were planning on a “stay-cation” in the city – many have found relief at Portland Parks & Recreation facilities.

Abbe MacFarlane, Center Director of the East Portland Community Center, said their new Aquatic Center has seen record crowds during the heat wave.

“We’ve been operating at capacity, every day this week,” MacFarlane told us as we walked into the pool area, filled with kids splashing around (actually, in this case, taking a swimming lesson). “Especially during the evening swims, we’ve had waiting lists. People get home from work, the houses are hot – so they grab their kids and they come out to the pool.”

Popular times have been the Family Swim session from 11:30 a.m. until 1 p.m. – followed immediately by an open swim that ends at 3:15 p.m. “The really popular time is our two-hour session from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m., on weekdays, during the summer.”

186 people can be accommodated in the leisure pool at one time, she said.

“We have the maximum number of lifeguards scheduled. Frequently, we do counts in the to make sure we keep the correct ratio of swimmers to lifeguards. The pool managers communicate to the front desk with walkie-talkies and let us know when 10 or 15 more people can come into the pool. We stay on top of that really well, when the demand is so high.”

There’s nothing better than a dip in the pool – and a thousand people per day are using the Aquatic Center at the East Portland Community Center.

1,000 splashers every day
About 500 leisure swimmers use the new East Portland Aquatic Center daily, MacFarlane noted. “Add to that people who come for swim lesions and water exercise classes – they’ve become very popular in the last few weeks – and we’re seeing about a thousand people a day using the pool.”

She also noted that the center is also a “cooling station” for senior citizens. “The Loaves & Fishes Center program is here for the seniors – they can come and enjoy a lunch meal here. We also have a lounge, dedicated for the use of senior citizens, from 9 a.m. To 3 p.m. daily, seven days a week. After that, they can stay in our air-conditioned lobby area until the building closes at 10 p.m.”

Places to cool off in East Portland
Beth Sorensen, Media & Events Officer at Portland Parks & Recreation, suggested that folks take advantage of all of the pools and “spray features” available.

The list she gave us included these pools, and she suggests you call for hours:

  • East Portland Aquatic Center – Indoor – 740 SE 106th Avenue, (503) 823-3450
  • Montavilla Pool – Outdoor – 8219 NE Glisan Street, (503) 823-4101
  • Mt. Scott Pool – Indoor – 5530 SE 72nd Avenue, (503) 823-3183
  • Creston Pool – Outdoor – SE 44th Avenue & Powell Blvd., (503) 823-3672
  • Sellwood Pool – Outdoor – 7951 SE 7th Avenue, (503) 823-3679

And, we’d certainly be remiss if we didn’t include these two fine facilities, both offering “open swim” sessions:

  • Parkrose Community Center Pool – they’ve got a beautiful HUGE indoor pool – Parkrose High School, 12003 N.E. Shaver St – (503) 408-2600
  • David Douglas Pool – Indoor – David Douglas High School at SE 130th Avenue (between SE Stark and SE Division Streets) at SE Taylor St., (503) 261-8378

Chance McKinney found a way to beat the summer heat. He’s using the “water feature” at Raymond Park, hidden away in the Powellhurst-Gilbert Neighborhood.

“Spray features” are also a fun way to play and cool off in neighborhood parks, available all regular park hours:

  • Essex Park, SE 79th Avenue & SE Center Street
  • Earl Boyles Park, SE 112th Avenue & SE Boise Street
  • Raymond Park, SE 118th Avenue & SE Raymond Street

The weather to come
“Coming off the heat spells gives the opportunity for thunderstorms to form in our area,” meteorologist Dalton, forecasted. “There will be an increasing marine influences cooling us off. We’ll start to see morning clouds that will be gone by the afternoon. We’re expecting to see high temperatures in the 80s next week.”

You’ll probably be sleeping better at night in the coming days – Dalton said to expect temperatures to dip into the low 60s.

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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