Heat Waves Melt Critical Infrastructure in Pacific Northwest

Neither people nor infrastructure are ready for the fallout of climate change
Ameya Paleja
Triple digit temperatures seen in Pacific Northwest on SundayWashington State Department of Transportation/Twitter

Days after record high temperatures in the Arctic, the Pacific Northwest is facing heat waves that are literally melting cables, roads and shutting down schools because the buildings do not have the infrastructure to keep classrooms cool. Over the years, the area has witnessed moderate summers that barely need air-conditioning. This is likely to change. 

Portland suspended its streetcar services after its power cables were melted by the punishing heat. 

State governments have responded by using pools, libraries, malls, and movie theatres as cooling centers for the public. Local media reported that Salem had run out of air conditioning units in anticipation of this wave.

With an increasing demand for electricity, power grids are now under strain. "Power grids are designed around historical norms, and when we get these abnormal temperatures, the strain on the grid is unprecedented" Vivek Shandas, a Professor of climate adaptation at Portland State University told Gizmodo

Scientists have long warned that global warming will bring unprecedented changes in climate such as bringing heat waves to normally cold areas. 

The weather forecast from Seattle is quite telling. "As there is no previous occurrence of the event we're experiencing in the local climatological record, it's somewhat disconcerting to have no analogy to work with. Temperature records will fall in impressive fashion. Stay cool, stay hydrated," NPR reported

The event is being attributed to a heat dome that has formed over the region and is being dubbed as a once in a 1000 years event. But who's to say whether it will remain as a once-in-a-lifetime event or not? 

In what experts are calling a major compromise, the Biden administration is working on an infrastructure bill that will allow more emissions than focusing on clean energy.  

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