AN EXCESSIVE HEAT WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM NOON TODAY TO 10 PM PDT THIS EVENING.
A STRONG RIDGE OF HIGH PRESSURE WILL BRING CONTINUING HOT WEATHER TO THE PORTLAND VANCOUVER METROPOLITAN AREA TODAY…WITH HIGH TEMPERATURES AGAIN AROUND 100 DEGREES.
AN EXCESSIVE HEAT WARNING MEANS THAT A PROLONGED PERIOD OF HOT TEMPERATURES WILL OCCUR. THE EXCESSIVE HEAT WILL CREATE A POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS SITUATION IN WHICH HEAT RELATED ILLNESSES ARE POSSIBLE. DRINK PLENTY OF FLUIDS…STAY IN AN AIR-CONDITIONED ROOM…STAY OUT OF THE SUN…AND CHECK UP ON RELATIVES AND NEIGHBORS.
And believe it or not, in Portland this is news. It’s all you hear when you turn on the radio or television. Everyone is talking about it. You can’t escape it.
But that makes sense, because temperatures don’t normally get this high all that often up here. We have a temperate climate, and generally avoid both excessive highs and excessive lows.
I know, some of you out there are already shaking your heads and thinking “A hundred degrees? That’s all? What a bunch of whiners.” And you may very well be right.
But I know from personal experience that heat just feels different in different parts of the country. It’s hard to compare across regions, because the perception of heat is so subjective. I have spent some time in various parts of the country, and so I can at least speak from experience regarding a few of the flavors of summer heat, and so I hereby present:
PAGENT’S GUIDE TO UNCOMFORTABLY HOT WEATHER
Pacific Northwest Heat
Although it typically only happens a few weeks out of the year, it can get really miserable when the mercury creeps up over about 97 degrees F. Anything over 100 is positively unbearable. The humidity can run from 50% to 80%, and 100 degrees just feels a lot hotter here than it has any right to feel.
What the heat feels like: Northwest heat feels like visiting an aging relative who keeps the thermostat set outrageously high because they can’t get warm. Initially it doesn’t seem unbearable, but you gradually become hotter, and hotter, and hotter, until you would sell your soul for a cool breeze.
Representative City: Portland, Oregon
Because of the astonishingly low humidity, even very high temperatures are quite bearable. Of course, even when the humidity is low, 110 degrees is no picnic.
What the heat feels like: Desert heat is like sticking your head into the oven to get a good look at the cake you are baking. The heat hits your flesh like a wave, and you can feel your hair getting crispy and the fluid in your eyeballs heating up. Still, if you can manage not to move, it isn’t too bad. And those mister things they have set up outside are awesome.
Representative city: Palm Springs, California
Gulf Coast Heat
The combination of high heat and high humidity make this kind of summer weather nearly unbearable. You can take a cold shower, put on clean clothes, and within five seconds of stepping out the front door, you’re soaked with sweat and feeling limp. You look forward to a thunderstorm because at least the temperature will drop a few degrees, even as the humidity gets cranked even higher. You will typically get a summer cold because building interiors are air-conditioned to 55 degrees, so that going in and out of the icebox thermally shocks your immune system into hibernation.
What it feels like: Walking into an enclosed public swimming pool. The heat, the humidity, and the whiff of ozone — you can function in it, but the whole time you will be wishing you were somewhere else.
Representative city: Houston, Texas
Sticky Southern Heat
Here we are talking about the frightening combination of very high temperatures and equally high humidity. For example where both the temperature and the humidity are in the high 90s. Heat like this sucks the energy right out of you, leaving you limp and listless. Your hair plasters itself to your face, your clothes become uniformly damp, and even sound seems to move more slowly in the dense, moisture-laden air. When speaking, you parse out your words slowly, because it just seems to take too much energy to talk quickly. In fact, you can barely muster the strength to pick up that mint julep by the hammock.
What it feels like: Stepping into this kind of heat is like being swaddled in a towel that’s been soaked in boiling water. The air is sucked out of your lungs, leaving you gasping like a fish. The act of breathing itself becomes difficult enough that you need to apply conscious thought to keep air moving in and out of your lungs. Moving through this kind of soup is more like swimming than it is like walking.
Representative city: Louisville, Kentucky
You know, now that I think about it, I’ll take Portland. This isn’t really all that bad.