This may not be news to you at this point, but it’s really hot in Canby right now. In fact, the heat wave baking the Pacific Northwest this weekend is of an intensity never before recorded by modern humans — full stop.
Sunday’s high at the Portland International Airport — an almost incomprehensible 112 degrees Fahrenheit — shattered the previous mark of 108 set one day earlier, which had itself smashed the previous record of 107 that had stood for nearly a century.
Canby has no National Weather Service data centers to record official temperatures, but privately owned ambient weather units stationed throughout town recorded highs of at least 111.4, with a heat index of 106.
By some metrics, the temperature was much higher. A call to DirectLink’s automated time-and-temperature line, 503-266-TIME, Sunday afternoon reported a staggering 122 degrees.
Meanwhile, the mercury at the Whiskey Hill Store in Hubbard topped out at 120 degrees — not because it was “only” 120 — but because that was as high as the thermometer could go.
All of this was before the heat wave had even peaked, with temperatures Monday predicted to go even higher.
According to meteorologists, the area is experiencing what’s known as a “heat dome,” which is not — as I initially suspected — a Thunderdome-style fight to the death between Oregonians and the sun.
Instead, a heat dome is essentially a mountain of hot air stacked vertically through the atmosphere — which explains why it feels like the entire weight of Mount Hood is on top of you whenever you walk outside.
The Canby Current on Twitter: “Left is Death Valley – the hottest place on Earth. Right is Canby, Oregon. pic.twitter.com/5XK5tTy5If / Twitter”
Left is Death Valley – the hottest place on Earth. Right is Canby, Oregon. pic.twitter.com/5XK5tTy5If
The intensity of a heat dome is measured by how “thick” the atmosphere is at a given spot. The hotter the air in that column, the larger the thickness of air in that column, because heat expands.
Climate scientists say the heat dome affecting the Pacific Northwest this week registers a statistical standard deviation from the average of 4.4 — which, in layman’s terms, means the odds of such an event occurring are about 1 in 10,000, or a 0.01% chance.
What cannot be ignored is that these sweltering temperatures are being experienced by a region and a population largely unaccustomed to dealing with extreme heat.
Jeff Berardelli on Twitter: “To put climate extremes into perspective we measure against the average. The sigma is the standard deviation of a normal distribution of expected values. In this case the heat dome sigma max is 4.4 – that means it’s outside of 99.99% of expected values or a 1/10,000+ chance (1/2) pic.twitter.com/8raIMAngkg / Twitter”
To put climate extremes into perspective we measure against the average. The sigma is the standard deviation of a normal distribution of expected values. In this case the heat dome sigma max is 4.4 – that means it’s outside of 99.99% of expected values or a 1/10,000+ chance (1/2) pic.twitter.com/8raIMAngkg
Many homes do not have central cooling or even air-conditioning units, and many people are ill-prepared to cope with triple-digit thermometer readings for days at a time.
This was something that struck transplanted resident Sarah Spencer Caulkins immediately back when she first moved to the area.
“I remember when I was moving to Oregon, I noted that none of the apartments that I was looking at, even large modern company-managed complexes, had central air conditioning, only heat,” she recalled. “I asked my ex about it and he said that you really don’t need A/C in Oregon because it’s only hot like two weeks out of the year.
“What he didn’t mention was that during those couple of weeks, the entire area pitches itself directly into the center of the sun and with the wet, boggy, volcanic ground storing every snick of heat, it doesn’t appreciably cool off until like 2 a.m.”
Yeah. For those of you who fell into a heat-induced coma halfway through the scientific explanation (I barely made it myself) — that pretty much sums it up.
Canbyites weathered the heat storm as best they could Sunday and Monday, seeking shade, water and cool air wherever it could be found, even if they had to make it themselves — like this “poor person’s swamp cooler” designed by Sally Van Liew Varwig.
Some took their summer fun elsewhere, heading to nearby lakes or even the coast in search of more bearable climates. Others turned to culinary delights for relief, whether they were curative — ice cream, popsicles and root beer floats were popular — or for the sake of science.
While several Canby residents attempted the classic cook-an-egg-on-the-sidewalk experiment, with varying degrees of success, local YouTuber Steve Weldon took it a step further, attempting to bake a tray of chocolate chip cookies on the dashboard of his Toyota Prius. They were “all right,” he concluded.
Others made the most of the historic occasion. The largest-ever Canby contingent attended the Oregon State High School Clay Target League Championships in Hillsboro this weekend and added new meaning to the phrase “hot shooting,” finishing first in league play.
Aurora caterer Arlene Anderson, of Arlene Cuisine, was there with their usual event menu (pulled pork, mac and cheese, chili dogs) — and over 200 pounds of ice.
“It really was 108 degrees most of the time, but we were prepared with lots of ice, water and an extra fan. We sounded like a wild party reminding each other, ‘Drink! Drink!'” she said with a laugh. “Dipping cooling towels in ice water helped a lot.”
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