Record-breaking temperatures kept coming Monday after a hot weekend as a heatwave baking Western Washington made its mark on Skagit County with triple-digit temperatures.
Before noon Monday, it was already 100 degrees in the Marblemount area, in the upper 90s around Sedro-Woolley and in the 80s on the western end of the county.
As of 4 p.m. Monday, temperatures were still hottest in the east with 108 near Marblemount, 105 in Lyman and 102 near Burlington.
Those were all higher than the 99-degree record set in June 1915 at the Sedro-Woolley monitoring station that the National Weather Service uses as the official climate data point for Skagit County. Weather Service records date back to 1897.
Even on Fidalgo Island, where the high was predicted at 91 degrees, the temperature was still 94 at 5:30 p.m.
“We’re seeing lots of triple-digit forecasts ... setting records in some areas,” Troy Lindquist, senior hydrologist for the National Weather Service, said during a monthly Pacific Northwest drought and climate meeting held Monday.
Weather and climate experts have called the heatwave unprecedented, and while high temperatures later this week are forecast to drop, they could remain unusually high through the week, through July, and even through the summer.
According to a Weather Service briefing, conditions this week will shift from very hot with extreme heat impacts Monday to very hot with high heat impacts Tuesday. Conditions will then remain above normal temperatures with medium heat impacts Wednesday through Sunday.
Until temperatures begin to drop tonight, the National Weather Service’s Seattle Office has an excessive heat warning in effect, including for Skagit County.
The excessive heat warning applies to virtually all of the county and remains in effect until 11 p.m.
Cooling centers were set up in several locations across the county Monday to help people find relief.
The Planetas family of Sedro-Woolley was among those who opted for a cooling center escaping the heat at the air-conditioned Sedro-Woolley Central Skagit Library.
Family members said they’d been trying to stay cool at home by drinking water, taking cold showers and using a portable fan, but the heat was stifling.
With a break from the heat, 11-year-old Jacob made progress reading a Hardy Boys novel while 13-year-old Ben studied math and science.
“It wasn’t cool enough in our house,” Ben said of the struggle to concentrate.
Their mother, Dorothy, said the opportunity to relax in an air-conditioned space was appreciated.
“It’s 100% more comfortable (here) than in our house,” she said. “We’re so grateful for this.”
Jeanne Williams, director of the Central Skagit Library, said about 52 people came to the cooling center Sunday, and by noon Monday, 43 people had already come by for a place to cool down.
Some visited other area libraries and businesses, including Mount Vernon’s Lincoln Theatre, which opened its doors Monday specifically to help people get out of the heat.
Anyone experiencing symptoms of heat-related illness should call 911 and move to a cool place, sip water, take a cool shower or bath, and put wet cloths on their bodies.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating; cold, pale and clammy skin; a fast, weak pulse; nausea or vomiting; muscle cramps; dizziness; headache and fainting, according to a fact sheet from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Symptoms of heatstroke include a body temperature of 103 degrees or higher; red, hot, dry or damp skin; a fast, strong pulse; headache; dizziness; nausea; confusion and loss of consciousness, according to the CDC.
While fire departments across the Skagit County had responded to at least 16 potential heat-related illnesses over the past week as of Monday morning, according to Skagit 911 call logs, Skagit County Public Health said it hadn’t seen a concerning increase in the use of local hospital beds.
“So far we’re hearing this morning from our hospitals, they are a bit less stressed for acute care beds than they were late last week,” Skagit County Public Health spokesperson Danica Sessions said.
Those beds may be used by COVID-19 patients or others needing critical care, but Sessions said the lack of change in use over the hot weekend was a good sign.
“We haven’t seen a huge influx since Friday. ... We haven’t really seen any increase since the heat started to climb,” she said.
Representatives of local fire departments and EMS agencies confirmed they’ve responded to heat-related calls as the weather has intensified.
Skagit County Fire District 13 Chief Wood Weiss said his department responded to a case of heat exhaustion in La Conner. Mount Vernon Fire Chief Bryan Brice said his department responded to multiple such calls.
Burlington Fire Department Assistant Chief Steven Riggs said the agency also responded to heat-exhaustion calls in recent days. He said people might not realize the danger posed by the sun, especially while on or near water.
“People like to go out on beaches because they feel cool, but they’re still in direct sunlight. Use your time in the heat sparingly,” he said.
Scott Lang and Dean Junell, both paramedics with the Burlington Fire Department, shared tips including the use of local cooling centers, hydration with water or watered-down sports drinks and additional efforts for the elderly or those with medical conditions to stay cool. There are also other risks some may not think about.
The University of Washington’s Dr. Beth Ebel said in a news release Monday that anyone who goes outdoors should be sure to wear shoes.
Harborview Medical Center treated several children’s feet over the weekend for burns from walking on hot asphalt. Eleb said pets are also at risk.
“The roads are melting in places here. It is ferociously hot,” she said.
It’s not only the heat of the day that poses a risk. Nighttime temperatures can fail to drop, forcing the next day’s temperatures to build on that.
Some overnight lows during the heatwave have set their own records by staying too hot.
Bellingham’s minimum Sunday was 66 degrees, the lowest since record keeping there began in 1949, Assistant State Climatologist Karin Bumbaco said. Everett recorded its second-highest low on record since 1948 at 72 degrees.
Specific weather conditions, including a high-pressure air mass over the greater Puget Sound region, helped magnify the recent warm streak.
“When you do get this perfect setup like we see outside our windows today ... which really toasts the Puget Sound region, on top of a climate that is already experiencing warming, the temperatures are going to be just that much more extreme,” Bumbaco said.
Those types of extreme high temperatures are expected to be seen more often as greenhouse gases accumulate in the atmosphere and the climate heats up overall.
“Greenhouse gases are believed to play a role in this type of heatwave,” Bumbaco said.
First responders and public health agencies recommend people stay inside in cool locations during heatwaves.
“The sun invites people to come out and have fun, but this is a good time to stay in and stay cool,” Weiss of Fire District 13 said.
Officials also noted that pets are vulnerable to heat exhaustion and heatstroke.
Joan DeVries, livestock advisors program coordinator for the Washington State University Skagit County Extension, said the scorching heat can also be a challenge for livestock owners.
“We all have to be careful and help people look out for their livestock,” she said.
DeVries said she’s seen a number of techniques used, such as water misters set up by dairy farmers and a vet’s recommendation to put a very small amount of salt in horses’ grain to make them drink more.
“Having water, having shade and being able to mist areas is being proactive and helpful,” DeVries said.
For crops rooted in drying soil, water isn’t always readily available — and production could suffer by the end of the growing season.
Hot weather threatens major local crops such as spinach seed and potatoes, said Don McMoran, director of the Washington State University Skagit County Extension in Mount Vernon.
“Unlike Eastern Washington, we are not set up to irrigate all of our crops in Skagit County. Crops that do not receive supplemental irrigation will have additional stress that will reduce yields,” he said.
With summer just one week in, the outlook for the rest of the season remains warm and dry — with more scorchers possible.
Bumbaco said the next two weeks specifically are expected to remain 10 or more degrees warmer than normal. The region is also forecast to remain warmer and drier than normal July through September, according to the Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center.