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.

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.

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Here's the view from last night's sunset on the trail from the historic batteries of Fort Flagler. ...

It doesn’t matter how many times I visit; I love to sit and watch the drama of the waves crashing under the lighthouse. ...

Fort Flagler is a historic fort that was built at the turn of the last century. Despite being built for military purposes, it never fired a shot in anger. By the time the fort was completed, it was already obsolete, and its guns were shipped to the East Coast to take part in World War I.⁠ Media Description: Fort Flagler ...

I woke up to a spectacular clouds show this morning. It was ever-changing and dramatic. I think it was due to a front moving in and then hitting the Olympics. ...

Boarding the MV Coho bright and early for a journey to Victoria, British Columbia. ...

Did you notice the breathtaking sunrise this morning? It was a refreshing change to see it without any rain. ...

Camping at Fort Worden this weekend. Nice to have the temperatures moderate and get outdoors. Even had a spot of sun as we passed the lighthouse on our walk. ...

It's sunny, but man, it's frigid out there! ...

We are enjoying the tranquility of a waterfall deep in the Olympic National Forest. ...

Taking a break on the trail to Goat Rock's summit for coffee. The trail leads from the park under the iconic Deception Pass Bridge. ...

Near the Tieton River bank, we found a blooming Brittle Prickly Pear (Opuntia fragilis). Visit our website for more details and photos from this trip. ⁠ Media Description: Brittle Prickly Pear ...

Hey, we're going camping this weekend at Fort Flagler State Park. Looks like there's a wild front coming through and the winds are really starting to howl. The good news is that we pretty much have the whole campground to ourselves. ...

Yellow Salsify reminded us of our childhood, and yes, we spent considerable time blowing the seeds into the breeze.⁠ Media Description: Yellow Salsify. You can find more photos and read about this adventure with the link in the bio. ...

This set of pillars made from columnar basalt at the terminus of Frenchman Coulee is popular among rock climbers.⁠ Read more about this in the link in bio. ...

We started our hike to the Frenchman Coulee Waterfall in the Columbia River Gorge early in the morning to beat the heat. However, when we reached the bottom of the waterfall, it was already scorching hot. Follow the link in the bio to read more. ...

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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