Eastern Oregon Counties to Open Cooling Centers During High Temps

The city of Boardman celebrated the grand opening of a new splash pad in 2015. The site is one of the cooling centers the Loop public transit in Morrow County will take people July 7, 2024, while temperatures reach triple digits. (Photo courtesy of Kristina Black)

As a summer heatwave blankets the state, some places in Umatilla and Morrow counties plan to offer cooling services for those in need.

In Baker County, the health department reminded residents that local libraries are options for people who need a cool indoor respite.

The National Weather Service has forecast temperatures to reach more than 100 degrees in most valley and basin locations starting Saturday, July 6, through at least July 10. In some areas, the triple-digit temps could stay through next weekend. Heat warnings, watches and advisories are in effect for most of the region.

Gov. Tina Kotek on July 5 declared a statewide extreme heat emergency as the state prepares for high temperatures, day and night. She urged Oregonians to take every precaution to stay safe and check on their family and neighbors.

“Extreme weather events are now the new normal for Oregon,” according to Kotek. “Right now, state and local governments are on a path to strengthen our preparedness and response, not only this year but for the years to come.”

Umatilla County

Neighbor 2 Neighbor plans to open its Pendleton Warming Station for additional hours as needed this summer as a cooling station.

The station is open Mondays 1-3 p.m. already to offer a chance for people to shower and get necessary supplies. Shirley Westfall, a N2N board member, said the shelter will be open more than normal during the next week due to the heatwave.

The warming station is set to open July 7, 1-4 p.m., and likely will extend its hours July 8 to 1-4 p.m., as well, to accommodate for the high temperatures. Sundays are the main day when a cooling space is needed, Westfall said, because there are not many other options of where to go.

Historically, the station’s summer hours have not been highly attended, Westfall said. A lot of people would call to ask, she said, but then once they opened, not many would actually show up.

Still, Westfall said if N2N’s services are needed, the station will be open.

“It will depend upon whether or not we’re needed as to whether or not we’re open,” she said. “If we’re a needed service, we’ll be open.”

Westfall said it doesn’t happen too often that people need the shelter to open extra hours, but if and when it does occur, “our homeless people will notice,” get out of the heat and use the services they need.

Neighbor 2 Neighbor posts updates on its Facebook account regarding hours and schedule changes. Volunteers also are available to answer questions about scheduling at 765-791-8332.

Morrow County

The Oregon Trail Library District is opening its Irrigon and Boardman branches July 7 to offer air conditioning for those who want it.

Kathy Street, the district’s library director, said normally both branches are closed Sundays and Mondays, but with the heat, it was important to her and her staff to be available.

Street said some people will be putting in overtime hours to accommodate being open, but the library district was asked to offer the service and she believes it is important.

The Boardman branch will be open 12-5 p.m. July 7, while the Irrigon branch will be open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. July 7 and 8. Later in the week, on its normal business days, the libraries may stay open until 8 p.m. instead of 6 p.m.

“Especially Boardman and Irrigon, there just are no options for people that don’t have AC or for unhoused people, there’s nowhere to go,” Street said.

She added the libraries will have water available for people as well as air conditioned space. Although the Heppner library branch will not be open July 7, other organizations are making heat accommodations this weekend. Willow Creek Water Park in Heppner will be open, and children can swim for free all summer.

The Loop public transit in Morrow County, which does not normally operate on Sundays, announced it will run three separated loops in the county, collecting anyone along the routes who flags the bus down — even if they’re not at a stop — and dropping people off at stops and cooling centers, including the water park in Heppner and near Splash Pad Park in Boardman.

There will be one route running around Boardman from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m., another in Irrigon from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and a third between Heppner, Lexington and Ione from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

“We typically don’t run in Irrigon at all because that’s going to be handled by Kayak (Public Transit) eventually,” said Patrick Keely, transit supervisor with Morrow County. “But the county wants to make sure that people have access to the relief stations.”

The Loop buses are in their first summer season, he said, so the schedule this weekend might be “hinky” at first. He also said he’s grateful to have staff members willing to work on their usual days off, as people volunteered as early as July 2 to drive a route on Sunday should the need arise.

“We don’t know how all this is going to work yet,” Keely said. “We have our regular routes worked out, and we know that those have some adjustments that we’re looking at trying to make, but this doesn’t fit our normal operations at all because we don’t operate Sundays.”

State of Oregon responds to the heat

The extreme heat will put a significant strain on Oregon’s energy grid and critical infrastructure, posing a risk of utility outages and equipment and transportation disruptions, according to the announcement from the governor.

The Oregon Department of Emergency Management will coordinate access to and use of personnel and equipment of all state agencies necessary to assess, alleviate, respond to, mitigate or recover from conditions this emergency causes. The agency also will coordinate all essential protective measures in support of identified disaster areas to protect lives, property and the environment.

The Oregon Department of Human Services, Oregon Health Authority, Oregon State Police, Oregon Public Utility Commission and other state agencies will be directed to provide any assistance OEM requests that is necessary to assist in the response to this emergency and to provide all necessary support to statewide response, recovery and mitigation efforts.

The governor in her declaration encouraged Oregonians to conserve energy and reduce consumption to the extent possible to avoid power disruptions and reduce the strain on the energy grid, such as avoiding the use of major appliances during peak morning and evening energy demand periods. In addition, high heat also can be a catalyst for wildfires, so Oregonians are encouraged to practice extreme caution and take preventive measures to reduce the risk of human-caused wildfires.

The state also wants to hear about price gouging for bottled water or other essential consumer goods, or lodging due to this emergency. If you believe you are being subjected to excessive prices for such goods and services, you can report violations to the Oregon Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Services, which has the authority to investigate unlawful trade practices. Visit www.doj.state.or.us/consumer-protection for more information.

The Oregon Health Authority also is encouraging people to take steps to avoid heat-related illnesses such as heat stroke and heat exhaustion as advisories predicting triple-digit temperatures are in effect through the weekend and early next week. Oregonians can find more information about local cooling centers from 211. Information about how to keep your animal safe in the heat is at www.oregonhumane.org/hot-weather-safety-for-pets-resources.


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