Let’s relive a few Seattle Times headlines from the past couple of months, shall we?
Ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.
We did have a quick stretch of gorgeous weather recently, the kind that makes everyone sing the glories of Seattle summers. But it was sandwiched between the never-ending monthslong drudgery of drizzle and chill and the stay-indoors, lower-your-blinds, this-heat-is-dangerous warnings that rung in this week.
The heat is dangerous. An estimated 800 people in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia died from the conditions last year in June and July as a “heat dome” settled over the region and the temperature in Seattle hit a record-breaking 108.
We won’t hit those temperatures this week, but temperatures are expected to be around 90 all week. The mercury on Tuesday topped out at 94 degrees around 5 p.m. at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, setting a record for this date. The last July 26 record high of 92 was recorded just four years ago.
And as global temperatures continue to rise, each sweltering day, each unwelcome heat event comes with the knowledge that every year is likely among the coolest years of the rest of our lives.
Cities across the region opened cooling shelters on Tuesday, and planned to keep them open throughout the week. In Seattle, nine public libraries that don’t have air conditioning either closed early or closed entirely — their staffs transferred to open branches — while the rest prepared for an influx of folks looking to escape the heat.
The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency warned the heat would cause high smog levels in the Cascade foothills and mean unhealthy air qualities for sensitive groups.
Kirby Cook, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service, said the heat will stretch through Friday and Saturday and won’t cool off that much at night.
The effects, he warned, can be cumulative. People should hit a cooling center, go to a movie, find some way to get out of the heat even if it’s just for a couple of hours.
“We’re not used to this kind of heat,” Cook said. “When you have day after day of heat it can add up; it’s significant.”
But Day One of a heat wave is still a novelty.
Golden Gardens Park was bustling with people playing hooky at noon on a Tuesday. The bold swam in the still-chill waters. Others gazed at the slate-blue sound, a heat-haze miasma hanging over the Olympics. Volleyball courts were empty. No one moved too fast.
Andrew Woods was making a day of it. He’s from Baltimore and is used to the heat, the sticky, stultifying humidity. Plus, he said, “last summer kind of conditioned me to the extremes.”
He walked the shore at Golden Gardens, earphones on, listening to SZA as he piloted a remote control car across the sand. It bounced over bumps and hillocks, trailing a plume of dust.
This is the Losi Super Baja Rey 2.0, Woods explained, maybe the premier RC truck on the market.
When the pandemic began, Woods, an architectural engineer, retreated to his downtown apartment. He needed a hobby. It was either a dog or a remote control car. He decided on both. (He has a Siberian husky named Luna.)
He got to the beach at 10:30 Tuesday morning, toting an umbrella, food, books and a couple of other remote control cars to tinker with. He answered some emails. He had some podcasts to listen to. He planned to stay until evening.
“I’m going to make it a whole little adventure,” Woods said.
Amanda and Sam Hutson also arrived in the morning, with their 18-month-old daughters Josie and Maple. They live in Renton and are teachers, so they had the day off. They planned to get in some beach time and get out before temperatures peaked in the afternoon.
They figured they had a couple of hours under their pop-up tent before “these two start to get fussy,” Amanda said.
They walked the shoreline at low tide, picking up shells, poking around in tide pools.
Sam took each of their daughters, one at a time, out on a stand-up paddleboard. Amanda worried about catastrophes, both conceivable and not. “I’m thinking, is a whale going to jump up and eat them?”
Scott Haapala hit the beach just to “see how packed it was” and planned on going home before too long.
Go inside before it gets too hot. Close your shades when the sun hits the windows. He was using a fan, but moving it with the sun, so it blew air from the shady, (ostensibly) cooler side of the house.
There are, of course, people for whom these tips aren’t much good. People whose job it is to be outside in the heat.
The Washington State Department of Transportation tweeted that there are three seasons: construction season, fire season, then winter.
So the work goes on.
Christian Bautista was part of a crew Tuesday pouring concrete for a sidewalk in front of a new development in Loyal Heights. Bautista lives in Lakewood but works everywhere from Olympia to Everett.
He said the crew was trying to drink plenty of water. His company had handed out a pamphlet about the dangers of heatstroke, telling them to take a 10-minute break in the shade whenever needed.
“But we’ll still do a good amount of work,” Bautista said. One benefit: Concrete needs time to dry, so there are ready-made breaks built into the day.
“A lot of it boils down to working safe and keeping on top of things,” Bautista said. “But we’ve still got to enjoy the sun, because we don’t get weather like this often.”
Neven Taylor drives a garbage truck for Waste Management. During last year’s heat dome, work was called off because of the temperatures. The heat was too dangerous. No such luck on Tuesday.
Taylor wore a big straw hat, its sloped brim as wide around as a pizza. He planned on drinking 2 liters of water over the course of his shift.
“Just trying to stay cool any way I can.”