Heat Wave 2021

Here's How to Stay Cool in Portland Today

Ways to beat the heat as Oregon broils under record-breaking temps

By Julia Silverman June 28, 2021

OK, Portland, first some good news: Tomorrow’s forecast is for a high of 97! 

(And no, we can’t believe there’s an exclamation point after that either. But seriously, when the high for today is a predicted 117, can you blame us?) 

In the meantime, though, you need to stay cool through today’s record-breaking heat? If you’re lucky enough to have central air, or window air conditioning—and around 70 percent of us do, according to the American Community Survey—it’s best to stay inside, with your shades drawn.  

If you can handle it, leave your AC at 75 degrees or a wee bit higher, to do your part to reduce stresses on the power grid, which has pretty much held up so far, with just a few scattered outages around the metro area (in a sharp contrast to the winter ice storm of a few months back, in which thousands were without power for days on end). To help keep the power grid working, Portland General Electric also suggests not using your electric oven to cook, and putting sheets over sun-facing windows to block the heat. 

If you don’t have AC at home, it’s more complicated. Portland Parks and Recreation closed its outdoor pools on Monday, citing the risks of excessive heat, particularly to staff who need to remain poolside (not in the water) to monitor swimmers for safety.  

“Several lifeguards experienced heat-related illnesses, including one that required a 911 call on Sunday, June 27,” said Parks spokesman Tim Collier via email.  

A handful of the city’s indoor pools opened in the morning, but closed by midday, including the East Portland Community Center and Mount Scott Pool, while other indoor pools were also closed due to heat impacts, Collier said. The parks department has not provided a set date when outdoor pools will reopen.

“SW Community Center’s HVAC system has failed and cannot cool the building,” he wrote. “In addition, on June 27, an overnight power outage or power surge disrupted the mechanics of the indoor pool at Matt Dishman Community Center. The impact on the pool made swimming unsafe for guests.” 

If you’re willing to brave the parks, splash pads and spray fountains around the city are open. (Here's a handy guide to help find one near you.) And though only five Multnomah County library branches are officially open given the library system’s Covid reopening plans, the library has opened four more branches to serve as cooling centers. All libraries are open from noon-8 pm; other county cooling centers are open 24 hours. (Cooling centers are also open in Clackamas and Washington Counties.)

If you need a ride to a cooling center, call 211, though that system has warned that it is having trouble getting taxis and rideshare drivers to show up to transport people. On Sunday, some calls to 211 were being routed to an out-of-office message, or rang without anyone picking up on the other end, says Julie Sullivan-Springhetti, a spokeswoman for the county. The system was been updated to put the prompt for information on cooling centers and rides earlier in the message and expanded to cover all Oregon counties between 8 am and 11 pm, with 24-hour service for Multnomah County, Sullivan-Springhetti says, and ride referrals are happening within 5 minutes, but there may still be delays with cabs and rideshares.

See a full list of cooling center locations below: 

Oregon Convention Center, 960 NE 1st Ave  

Arbor Lodge Shelter, 1952 N Lombard St  

Sunrise Center, 18901 E Burnside St 

Multnomah County Friends Meeting, 4312 SE Stark St 

Capitol Hill Library, 10723 SW Capitol Hwy.  

Gregory Heights Library, 7921 NE Sandy Blvd. 

Gresham Library, 385 NW Miller 

Holgate Library, 7905 SE Holgate Blvd  

Hollywood Library, 4040 NE Tillamook  

Kenton Library, 8226 N Denver  

Midland Library, 805 SE 122nd 

Rockwood Library, 17917 SE Stark St 

Woodstock, 6008 SE 49th 

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