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A Dangerous Heat Wave Grips The Pacific Northwest

NOEL KING, HOST:

The National Weather Service says it could be 110 degrees today or even hotter in Portland, Ore. That's the third day in a row of 100-plus-degree temperatures. And this region is just not prepared for that kind of heat. Here's Deena Prichep.

DEENA PRICHEP, BYLINE: You'd think Chad Draizin would be happy about a heat wave. He owns Fifty Licks Ice Cream. But on Saturday, all three shops closed their doors.

CHAD DRAIZIN: Our shops are just not set up to handle 115-degree weather. The staff will be absolutely melting in there. The air conditionings can't keep up. Ice cream starts melting in those freezers.

JENNIFER VINES: We are entering record-shattering days of heat here where our overnight lows are actually about where our typical highs are.

PRICHEP: Dr. Jennifer Vines is the health officer for Multnomah County. They've set up cooling centers and have reopened libraries. The Oregon Health Authority has also suspended COVID capacity restrictions, which means more people can take advantage of big, air-conditioned places like malls and swimming pools and movie theaters.

VINES: Realizing that the most important thing right now is to get people cooled off. And second to that is COVID precautions.

PRICHEP: Vines says she's lived in Portland long enough to remember when a 90-degree day was a big deal. She says the problem with this heat wave around the Northwest isn't just the lack of air conditioning, though Portland is below the national average there. It's also not knowing the toll that heat can take on a body.

VINES: We're really urging everyone to take this seriously not just for themselves but also to to reach out and make sure others who may have fewer social connections - you know, to check on them and to make sure that they have a way to stay cool.

PRICHEP: As for ice cream shop owner Chad Draizin, he's helping others do just that.

DRAIZIN: The delivery van, the ice cream van isn't being used right now. So I'm taking some gallons of water out to folks on the street to just help some people. I think we all have to help each other out right now.

PRICHEP: Draizin is hoping to have his shops back open Tuesday, when the temperature slides down a little bit into the upper 90s.

For NPR News, I'm Deena Prichep in Portland, Ore.

(SOUNDBITE OF ODDISEE'S "RIGHT SIDE OF THE BED") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.