Deadly Northwestern US heat prompts government agencies to act on heat

Lawmakers in the Pacific Northwest are watching several emergency heat bills aimed at helping vulnerable people.

The historic heat wave has killed at least 200 people in Oregon and Washington.

Intensified heat causes desperate measures on people

According to, public health officials struggled between June 25 and 28 as the region’s unusual temperatures lasted for three days.

Temperatures in Portland hit triple digits in three days, with a high of 116 degrees Fahrenheit (46.7 degrees).

Seattle temperatures hit a record high of 108 F (42 C).

The first scientific analysis from the World Weather Attribution found that without anthropogenic climate change, deadly heat waves, in which record temperatures rise a few extra degrees, would be nearly impossible.

In the Western Pacific Northwest, summers are generally mild and air conditioning is less common than in other parts of the country.

According to data from the 2019 US Housing Survey, the National Census Bureau installed primary air conditioning in approximately 91% of US homes.

This is compared to Portland at 78% and Seattle at 44%, according to Spectrum News.

In the report, Oriana Magnera, head of the environmental justice association Verde, told Oregon lawmakers during their public hearing last week, “Most of the people who died didn’t have access to vital cooling devices such as air conditioning or heating and cooling pumps in their homes.”

Oregon’s first two proposed heat relief bills received bipartisan support.

A $5 million budget is for the Oregon Health Authority to create a distribution program that air conditioners and air filters would provide to low-income families.

They also created an incentive program to facilitate the purchase of energy-efficient heat pump cooling systems for vulnerable households by allocating $10 million to the program.

Read more: Worsening marine heat waves have disastrous consequences for coastal habitats

Government agencies will act

(Photo: Joel Muniz/Unsplash)

According to Spectrum News, the other two state legislatures have also passed bills in the past three years focused on expanding and opening refrigeration facilities.

In 2019, the California State Legislature passed a law allowing aides to use vacant guns as temporary cool homes for the homeless.

In 2021, the Illinois State Council passed a bill requiring communities to allocate space for use as cool shelters in the event of an extreme heat emergency.

According to, lawmakers in Washington were considering a bill to expand the use of air conditioners in nursing homes.

However, the bill has not reached a legislative session and is unlikely to proceed unless lawmakers decide to include it in the state budget in the coming weeks.

Senator Mark Mullet, a Democrat from Issaquah who sponsored the bill, said in a statement introducing the bill, “I know many homes here in the Pacific Northwest don’t have air conditioning. , and most of the year we don’t need it.”

He also added via Spectrum News, “Our weather fluctuations are becoming more and more extreme, and these days a lack of air conditioning can be fatal.”

Read also: Air conditioning without electricity? Heat beam in space, say scientists

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