Record Heat and Nowhere to Run

With record heat searing the Pacific Northwest, over 100 juvenile Caspian Terns fled overheated rooftop nests and fell to their deaths on the pavement below.

Record Heat in Washington

Shock is the only way to describe my reaction to the local news that we’d be experiencing temperatures above 100°F later in the week. After all, this was June! In the Pacific Northwest! In over thirty years of living here, I’d never experienced temperatures even close to what was being forecast.

Dutch Oven
Dutch Oven enchiladas cooked on the beach.

The Effects of Record Heat

These weren’t just uncomfortable temperatures we were facing but dangerous temperatures for a region where the majority of homes have no air conditioning. The human threat was obvious, in fact, 20 deaths were attributed to the heat dome in Washington with Oregon recording 79 deaths. There’s also the economic impact and threat to wildlife in the area.

One unspoken threat was to our beaches where species such as cockles, varnish clams, butter clams, and native littleneck clams—normally buried out of sight—popped to the surface of the substrate in large numbers. Manila clams were also impacted in some areas. Surfaced clams were observed to be gaping, a sign of stress, or had already died from the effects of the heat. Some Pacific and Olympia oysters initially appeared to survive the heat but died in subsequent days, perhaps weakened by the extreme temperatures and unable to recover. In Seattle, over 100 juvenile Caspian Terns fled overheated rooftop nests and fell to their deaths on the pavement below.

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With record heat searing the Pacific Northwest, over 100 juvenile Caspian Terns fled overheated rooftop nests and fell to their deaths on the pavement below.

Steve Weileman
Dutch Oven Enchiladas

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There are other impacts to take into consideration as well. On the Saturday of the heatwave Seattlites used over 50 million gallons more of freshwater than usual. The freezing level in Western Washington was 18,700 feet, roughly 4,300 feet above the summit of Mount Rainier.

The State Patrol shared photos of an I-5 lane in Shoreline that had crumbled from heat expansion, and a State Patrol trooper near Everson in Whatcom County reported that State Route 544 was closed near milepost 7 because of pavement that buckled to the size of a speedbump. The National Weather Service warned that Western Washington pavement could reach 170°F, a danger for drivers and dog paws.

Latest Instagram

You never know what a simple hike through the woods will yield. Found this small dam in the hills behind our camp on Hood Canal. I'm guessing that at one time it was used by a hometead to hold water during the summer months.⁠ ...

Some of the lush green and waterfalls to be found on the Olympic Peninsula. ...

South shore of Dusty Lake just north of Vantage, Washington. We recently spent a night hoping for a shot of the Milky Way. That didn't happen as hoped, but we had quite the adventure nonetheless. ...

Just published our latest adventure - "A Visit to North Cove" - You can find the link in my bio up top. https://buff.ly/3KFAQB8 ...

Tongue Point on the Strait of Juan de Fuco. This was a negative tide and I’ve never seen so much of the reef exposed. ...

Never seen the tide so low here at Crescent Bay. Getting ready for this weekends #COASST bird survey. ...

⁠ Theresa doing her best to imidate the North head Lighthouse.⁠ ...

Here's an elevated view of the massive geologic formation on the south side of our Dusty Lakes camp. ...

Took us a bit to get into Dusty Lake and a one point we were being chase by a thunderstorm, but the views and scenery made up for the hardships. ...

A rare clear evening out on Washington's coast. The Olympic National Park has miles of coastline to enjoy. ...

Sunset over the Ginkgo Petrified Forest Interpretive Center. Watch this site as we'll be heading back next week for an extended stay to explore the Ancient Lakes area. ⁠ #northcentralwashington #ncw #centralwa #columbiagorgeinspiration ...

Squalls approaching Portage Head. Jason and I found ourselves hunkered down in a tent waiting for a bit of clearing in the morning before heading down the coast in our kayaks. ...

The old BNSF railroad maintenance shed. It's been torn down to make room for a golf course, but when it was standing, you could still find parts for the trains in labeled bins.⁠ ...

Sunset over the hills of the Columbia River Gorge near Vantage. We'll be heading back there next week...stay tuned. ...

Sunset over the old gravel dock near Steilacoom. This area abounds with a rich tapestry of history. ...

Our Escape

We were lucky in that we already had a campsite booked for that weekend on the coast which was approximately 25° cooler than other parts of Western Washington. In fact, in order to maximize the cooling effect we set up a day camp on the beach itself; working and cooking in sight of the cooling waves of the Pacific. We only returned to our campsite after sunset when temperatures dropped even further.

We also limited our activities to those that kept us directly on the beach or nearby jetties. It was just too warm to venture far from the shore breeze.

Of course, the real concern is this going to be our ‘new normal? It is encouraging to hear that local officials are addressing the issue. Let’s hope our leaders follow through with their rhetoric.

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