With temperatures running high all week and expected to climb past 90 degrees this weekend, Seattle is pointing residents to public sites where they can cool off, including library branches, wading pools, spray parks and swimming beaches.
Some COVID-19 restrictions are still in place, however, and there aren’t yet as many air-conditioned sites open as during heat waves in past years. Also, the city has yet to turn on drinking fountains in most parks. Temperatures could hit 100 degrees in some Puget Sound locations before the hot stretch is done.
“We’re reopening many city facilities for individuals to stay cool, but many of our city’s indoor spaces remain closed or at reduced capacity,” due to public health mandates, Mayor Jenny Durkan said in a statement, urging residents to drink water, reduce strenuous activities and check on neighbors.
Citing COVID-19 concerns, Seattle kept drinking fountains in parks off until recently, as reported by PubliCola. At the start of June, the parks department decided to turn on the fountains citywide, starting with those in downtown parks, where there are fewer restrooms with access to running water, Durkan spokesperson Rachel Schulkin said. Only 20% of the city’s fountains are operating now, she said.
There are 13 branches of the Seattle Public Library with air conditioning that will be open at some point this week, including seven that are opening for the first time since the pandemic began, Durkan’s office said. The branches are still restricted to 50% capacity, due to COVID-19, and masks are still required, regardless of vaccination status.
The Ballard, Beacon Hill, Broadview, Douglass-Truth, Lake City and Rainier Beach branches were open before this week. The Central Library opened Tuesday for the first time since March 2020. The Delridge, Greenwood, High Point and Magnolia branches will reopen Wednesday, South Park will reopen Thursday and International District/Chinatown will reopen Sunday. The reopening schedule was set before the current heat wave arrived.
The hours at most of the library branches are Tuesday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., though some branches have different hours.
Seattle’s Office of Emergency Management will monitor the weather throughout the week to determine whether additional air-conditioned spaces should be opened, spokesperson Kate Hutton said.
The office relies partly on heat advisories, heat watches and heat warnings issued by the National Weather Service, and none of those had been issued yet, Hutton said Tuesday morning. On Tuesday afternoon, the service did issue an excessive heat watch for the Seattle area, lasting from Friday afternoon through Monday afternoon and predicting dangerously hot daytime conditions. The emergency management office also watches for spikes in heat-related illnesses and consecutive hot days without significant nighttime cooling, Hutton said.
During heat waves in past years, pre-pandemic, Seattle used up to 19 library branches and 11 senior centers as cooling spaces for the general public.
Not all library branches are ready to reopen, Schulkin said. Senior centers, which were shuttered when COVID-19 emerged last year, are in various stages of reopening and are taking special COVID-19 precautions because they serve high-risk residents, she said. Staffers from the city’s Human Services Department “are discussing reaching out to these centers” to check on their availability to serve as cooling centers, Schulkin said.
The city made no cooling spaces available for the general public last summer.
On Saturday, the city will open 10 wading pools, nine spray parks and eight lifeguarded beaches. Two outdoor pools (Mounger and Colman) and two indoor pools (Medgar Evers and Rainier Beach) are open. The schedule was set before the hot weather arrived.
The Seattle Center Armory will reopen and the International Fountain will be activated on July 1, Durkan’s office said.
The city’s Human Services Department and outreach workers are checking on people who are living unsheltered, handing out water and providing referrals to a limited number of shelter spaces, Durkan’s office said.
Seattle’s Lake City Community Center has been serving as a day center for people experiencing homelessness in the neighborhood. Most of the city’s other community centers cannot be used as cooling spaces for the general public because they’re being used for child care, Schulkin said.
In a blog post Tuesday, King County Emergency Management suggested that residents visit a shopping center, library or mall to cool off. The county’s aquatic center in Federal Way and outdoor pool at Cottage Lake Park are open, the post mentioned. Nineteen King County Library branches are open.
King County’s Jefferson Day Center in downtown Seattle is open daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., according to a spokesperson for the county’s Department of Community and Human Services.
Seattle Public Library branches with air conditioning
Ballard, Beacon Hill, Broadview, Central, Douglass-Truth, Lake City: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays
Delridge: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays
Greenwood, High Point, Magnolia, Rainier Beach: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays; noon to 6 p.m. Sundays
South Park: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays
International District/Chinatown: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays; noon to 6 p.m. Sundays
Seattle wading pools opening Saturday (12 p.m. to 7 p.m.)
Dahl Field, Delridge Playfield, Soundview Playfield, South Park Community Center, Volunteer Park: Saturdays, Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays
Bitter Lake Playfield, East Queen Anne Playground, Lincoln Park, Powell Barnett Park, Van Asselt Playground: Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays
Green Lake Park will open July 2: Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays
Spray parks opening Saturday (11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily)
Beacon Mountain, Jefferson Park, John C. Little, Sr. Park, Lower Judkins Park, Georgetown Playfield, Highland Park, Lake Union Park, Miller Community Center, Northacres Park, Yesler Terrace Park
Seattle lifeguarded beaches (12 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekends)
Madrona, Magnuson, Matthews, Madison, Mount Baker, Pritchard, Seward, West Green Lake
Seattle outdoor pools
Mounger (Magnolia Playfield) : 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily
Colman (Lincoln Park): 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. daily