Saturday was a history-making scorcher for Seattle.
The National Weather Service reported the temperature peaked at 102 degrees at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport about 4 p.m. That broke the previous June record of 96 degrees in 2017, and came one degree shy of the hottest day ever registered at the airport, in July 2009.
The average high there for June 26 is a sweet, not sweaty 73 degrees, the weather service said.
Some other Puget Sound locations were just as hot or hotter Saturday, with 100-plus reported in Issaquah, Spanaway, Bellevue, Carnation and Maltby. The heat wave is expected to crest Sunday and Monday, meteorologist Maddie Kristell with the weather service said.
“Monday clocks in a bit hotter,” she said, describing the blazing weekend as somewhat unprecedented. “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but anywhere from 108 to 110 degrees is not out of the question … It’s difficult to pin an event down like this, when we don’t have a previous event to compare it to.”
Even as the city sizzled, government services remained stable, per Seattle’s emergency operations center. There had been no major surges in electricity use, water use or 911 calls, a spokesperson said Saturday afternoon.
Many sun-soaked residents in and around the city tried to cool off at shopping malls, libraries, community centers and pools, while some others dared to embrace the rays. Seattle-area workers with outdoor jobs baked as they drove mail trucks, changed tires and collected shopping carts. People living under tents and tarps also battled the heat, deciding whether to seek out emergency shelter.
Jason Hong, 46, began his day with a Pride run/walk at Magnuson Park organized by the Seattle Frontrunners club to raise money for LGTBQ community needs. By the time Hong crossed the finish line around 9:30 a.m., applauded by cheerleaders with rainbow masks and pompons, the temperature had reached 82 degrees.
“It’s brutal out here,” the Columbia City resident said, planning to chill out with a dip in Lake Washington.
Elsewhere in the park, a yellow lab named Captain looked refreshed after a plunge in the lake. Due to attend an outdoor wedding Saturday afternoon, Captain’s owner, Dji Reinhard, said she would prepare by drinking iced tea, “no sugar, extra ice.”
Fans and air conditioners were sold out at many stores, and parking lots at swimming beaches were crammed by noon. Rayson Morena’s family showed up early at Pritchard Island Beach in South Seattle to snag a parking spot. They brought a lunch and toys to last the whole day.
“You can’t stay at home” in this weather, the 39-year-old said, hanging out in the shade with his 22-month-old daughter as other kids splashed in the lake.
Helen Stone phoned about a dozen stores looking for an air conditioner before checking out the Lowe’s near Southcenter mall.
“Nothing, nothing, nothing,” is what the 74-year-old Tukwila resident heard on the phone, and nothing is also what greeted her at Lowe’s, where the shelves that normally hold fans and air conditioners were empty.
Jessica Walker, 42, and Jonasia McCane, 15, woke up Saturday with a plan: Head to Southcenter. The Kent residents knew they needed to spend time somewhere with air conditioning after spending the night with fans angled at their beds.
How hot is the weather getting this weekend? “It ain’t hell but …” Walker joked, before the pair strolled into the mall for shopping and cold drinks.
Helena Yoshimura wasn’t so lucky. She stood outside Southcenter wearing dark scrubs and holding a sign: “dental cleaning starts at $40 — come see me.”
“I need to get my own patients,” said Yoshimura, 26, a dental hygienist student at Pima Medical Institute. “I’ll be out here for a couple hours.”
Yoshimura had water in her backpack but admitted, “This is rough.
It was sizzling at Dan’s Auto Repair in Rainier Beach, where Moses Hakim was loosening lug nuts and tossing tires. But the 52-year-old said he wasn’t bothered by the weather.
“I’m from Lebanon,” where people are accustomed to hot summers, Hakim said, plotting a breezy spin around Lake Washington on his boat after work.
Standing next to an Interstate 5 offramp in North Seattle, Anthony asked motorists for spare cash and other help. Housed but mostly without work since COVID-19 hit, the 55-year-old, who didn’t share his full name, was struggling with the sun beating down.
“I won’t last much longer,” he said after an hour of direct exposure.
Behind some nearby bushes, a man who gave his name as Jude rested under the tarp where he and some others stay. Someone thoughtful had stopped by earlier to drop off a case of water bottles. What people living outside in the heat could use more of are places to shower, he said.
Sharon Lee, the executive director of the Low Income Housing Institute, which manages Seattle’s tiny-house villages for formerly homeless people, said villages were equipped for the weekend with extra fans and extra water.
A city team conducting outreach to people who are homeless reported that most were not interested in moving to a shelter Saturday night but several asked for someone to check on them Sunday, a spokeswoman said.
The Fire Department reported a “moderate increase” in emergency responses Saturday compared with a week ago, with at least 12 patients being treated for heat-related emergencies and one requiring paramedics, said David Cuerpo, a spokesperson.
After scarce business during the pandemic, the heat wave was proving to be good business for hotels, which, unlike many homes, feature air conditioning. A representative said Kimpton Hotel Vintage Seattle was sold out for Saturday night. Two other hotels said they had been booking rooms for people seeking refuge.
Some Seattle residents visited indoor spaces designated as cooling centers. The air conditioning at the Douglass-Truth library branch was so powerful that Central District resident Jean Harris had to step outside briefly to warm up. “This is a nice service,” the 78-year-old said.
At 4 p.m. as the heat hit its crescendo, people began trickling into a lot in White Center with eight long trailers fitted with air-conditioning units.
“White Center cooling center,” read a sign. “Come chill out.”
King County had acquired the site for isolation and quarantine as it braced for the COVID-19 pandemic but never used it for that purpose.
The site has six units available for people to cool down during the day and 20 for guests to stay overnight. Each features a bathroom, shower, fridge, microwave and television. Guests can set the air conditioning as they choose, and the air was a deliciously cool 64 degrees in one unit occupied by staff.
The units are available on a first-come, first-served basis, with no limits on how long a person can stay, though that could be revisited based on demand. The overnight space is geared for people who are homeless.
The site is scheduled to be open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. through Wednesday morning, when the worst of the heat is forecast to subside.
Within the first 30 minutes of opening, about 11 people had checked in to cool down, among them a man who gave his name as Robert. The prospect of spending an air-conditioned night was a relief, he said, “so you don’t die in the heat.”
Staff reporters Michelle Baruchman and Daniel Gilbert contributed to this report.