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Gov. Tina Kotek declares statewide emergency as heat wave hits Oregon

A person peers closely at a metal rack holding bottled water.
Kristyna Wentz-Graff
Emily Coleman, director of programs at Blanchet House in Portland, Ore., stocks water bottles at the facility, July 3, 2024, in preparation for the excessive heat predicted for much of Oregon and Southwest Washington. Water bottles, sunscreen, hydration drinks, cooling towels, and other items, many donated, are available for guests in need during the nonprofit organization’s meal times.

Gov. Tina Kotek declared a state of emergency for all of Oregon on Friday, as the state prepares to take the brunt of a heat wave that could send temperatures soaring into the triple digits through Tuesday.

“Both the record-breaking temperatures and the duration of heat present a clear and present danger, particularly for children, elders, people with disabilities, and people who work outside,” Kotek said in a statement. “I am urging Oregonians to take every precaution and check on your family and neighbors.”

Emergency declarations are a bureaucratic tool that enable state agencies to more freely share funding and resources with local governments and other groups as they set up cooling shelters, hand out water, and take other steps to protect human health. That process is coordinated by the Oregon Department of Emergency Management, or OEM.

In this case, Kotek said that the Oregon Health Authority, Department of Human Services, state police and other agencies “will be directed to provide any assistance requested by OEM 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’s declaration comes as searing heat is predicted throughout the state in coming days. It’s more in anticipation of need than a sign counties are currently struggling.

Temperatures as high as 110 degrees Fahrenheit are expected in Medford on Friday, with hotter temperatures likely on Saturday. Eugene and other areas of the Willamette Valley might see temperatures topping 100 degrees into early next week. And in Ontario, on the border with Idaho, temperatures are expected to hit triple-digits for longer.

Emergency declarations due to heat have become more common in recent years. Gov. Kate Brown did not issue a declaration during a 2021 “heat dome” event that killed roughly 100 people, many of them in the Portland metro region. She did declare an emergency during another heat wave later that year, and again in 2022.

Friday’s announcement marks the first time Kotek has declared a heat emergency since she took office in early 2023. She said in a statement that government programs increasing the availability of air conditioners and improvements in the state’s energy grid should make such declarations less necessary in the future.

“However, gaps exist today,” Kotek said. “In the interest of safety and human life over the next several days, I am declaring an emergency due to extreme heat.”

Dirk VanderHart covers Oregon politics and government for KLCC. Before barging onto the radio in 2018, he spent more than a decade as a newspaper reporter—much of that time reporting on city government for the Portland Mercury. He’s also had stints covering chicanery in Southwest Missouri, the wilds of Ohio in Ohio, and all things Texas on Capitol Hill.
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