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News / Clark County News

Utility offers tips to beat the heat as Clark County heat wave expected to last through middle of week

High temperatures in Clark County could reach as high as 105 on Tuesday

By Shari Phiel, Columbian staff writer
Published: July 6, 2024, 6:03am

It looks like our recent hot weather will be sticking around longer than expected. Forecasters originally thought the hottest days would come over the weekend but now say high temperatures will continue through the middle of next week.

“Currently, it’s looking like the hottest days — so the peak of this — is either going to be Monday or Tuesday. More likely, it’s going to be Tuesday,” said David Bishop, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Portland.

Much of Southwest Washington and Western Oregon remain under an excessive heat warning. Tuesday’s high temperatures are expected to reach 101 to 105 degrees, Bishop said.

While there’s always a possibility the forecast could change, Bishop said, the robust ridge of high temperatures currently anchored over the region doesn’t appear to be moving out anytime soon.

Safety tips for extreme heat

The National Weather Service is urging residents to be prepared for extreme heat over the next five days and offers the following advice:

  • Do hydrate. Drink plenty of water or other fluids. The Centers for Disease Control recommends drinking drink 8 ounces of water every 15 to 20 minutes when working in the heat.
  • Don’t go outside or do yard work in the afternoon, which is the hottest part of the day. Instead, limit strenuous outdoor activities to early-morning or late-evening hours.
  • Don’t leave children or pets unattended in a car. A motor vehicle’s interior can reach lethal temperatures in just minutes.
  • If you go outside, wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing. Take plenty of water breaks in an air-conditioned area whenever possible.
  • Watch for symptoms of heat-related illnesses. Cramps, hot and dry skin, headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion, and fainting or loss of consciousness can be signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
  • Anyone experiencing symptoms should be moved to a cool, shaded location. Call 9-1-1.

Trying to stay cool during a heat wave can be particularly stressful for low-income families and individuals already struggling to get by. Clark Public Utility spokesman Dameon Pesanti said there are things everyone can do to keep cool without breaking the bank.

When it comes to cooling your home, the most important step is prevention, he said. Open two or more windows once the sun goes down to let in the cool night air. During much of the summer, nighttime temperatures still drop down into the 50s, which is cooler than many air conditioners can produce. Placing a fan in one window to draw the cooler outside air in and another fan facing out to pull the hot air out will help tremendously, Pesanti said.

“We, in the Pacific Northwest, understand very well how to maximize every dollar spent when it comes to heating our homes in the winter,” Pesanti said. “We don’t have those same kinds of skills for cooling, understanding how air conditioning works and how to use it in a way that keeps our costs down.”

Pesanti said it is easier, more efficient and more cost effective to keep your home cool rather than trying to cool it after it’s sweltering late in the day.

“People wait until 3 p.m. when it’s 90 or 100 degrees outside, and then crank on the air conditioning, put it on 68 degrees and at full blast, and then leave it. Their house gets a little cooler, but it doesn’t really cool down,” he said. “Then people are frustrated and they’re still hot.”

Adding to that frustration is the utility bill that comes at the end of month, which is quite a bit higher because of the air conditioner use.

AC has limits

Pesanti said it’s important to remember that air conditioners — whether they are portable, window, central or ductless models — essentially work the same way. They are heat exchangers.

“At a basic level, they take heat from one place and put it in another place,” he said. “It’s taking heat from your house and putting it outside.”

But air conditioners have their limits. The hotter the outside temperature, the more the air conditioner has to work and the more energy it has to consume to exchange that hot air.

“Most residential air conditioners can only get 20 degrees cooler than the outdoor temperature that they’re sitting in,” Pesanti said.

Windows — whether single pane, double pane or better — are another source of heat that can reduce the efficiency of air conditioners.

Pesanti said it’s not unusual for people to insulate their windows in winter. Some use plastic sheeting; others use insulated blankets or heavy drapes. He said it’s just as important to keep windows insulated in the summer.

Insulated shades and blinds, heavy drapes and foil-lined panels can really help keep the heat out. Be sure to keep drapes and blinds closed throughout the day. Sure, it can be annoying feeling like you’re living in a cave, but it’s better than being overheated and broke trying to stay cool.

One way to improve the efficiency of air conditioners is to make sure the external unit is shaded. If there’s no natural shade, use a temporary canopy to shade window air conditioners as well as windows.

Another tip for keeping your home cool is to stay out of the kitchen. Rather than using the oven or stove top, try using an air fryer or toaster oven. Better yet, cook outside on the grill and leave all the heat outside. Cooking a meal in an oven, and then opening and closing the oven door to check on the meal, pumps an enormous of heat into your home.

“Think of it this way,” Pesanti said. “If it was the dead of winter, would you open your kitchen window every few minutes and then leave it open?”

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If your air conditioner is an older model, Pesanti said, newer models are more cost effective and do a better job of cooling. Older homes without existing heating and cooling ducts may benefit from installing a mini or full-sized split air-conditioning and heat system. Financial assistance may be available to lower-income individuals through the state Department of Commerce.

Seasonal assistance with energy bills is also available through Clark Public Utilities and the Washington Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. Call the utility’s customer service at 360-992-3000.

Other ways to be cool

What if you don’t have air conditioning? According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, sweating is the body’s natural cooling system. When sweating doesn’t provide enough relief, it can lead to heat-related illnesses. Suggestions for dealing with the heat include staying hydrated; taking a cold shower or bath; placing cold, wet washcloths on pulse points at the neck and wrists, which will help cool your blood as it circulates; using box fans; and keeping the doors of unused rooms closed.

Clark County’s cooling centers and misting stations are also open, and C-Tran is providing free rides.

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This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva, The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.