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City of Seattle Continues Heat Response Improvements

With more hot weather on the way, July event recap shows City’s continued efforts to improve heat response

Seattle experienced yet another record-breaking heat wave in July, with six straight days above 90 degrees. The City of Seattle responded and coordinated with partner agencies to help ensure residents could beat the heat.

The National Weather Service in Seattle has issued a Heat Advisory for Wednesday and Thursday of this week, with forecasted high temperatures in the mid-to-upper 80s. Residents are encouraged to follow Public Health Seattle King County tips to stay cool and to be careful if recreating in cold water. Temperatures are not expected to require the activation of extra City resources but will be monitored. Air-conditioned libraries will be open during their regular hours of operation as a safe space to cool off. A list of air-conditioned libraries and their hours of operation can be found on the Seattle Public Libraries website. The King County Regional Homelessness Authority also has daytime cooling spaces activated August 17 and 18 for anyone who needs assistance.

Pre-Event Heat Planning

Since the historic and deadly heat events of Summer 2021, the City of Seattle has worked with regional partners, subject matter experts including the National Weather Service and the University of Washington, and communities most impacted by heat and environmental injustice, such as seniors, primary caregivers for children, communities of color, and people experiencing homelessness, to improve our extreme heat planning and response.

The City began coordinating response for this heat wave on July 22, hosting meetings between City departments, partner agencies, and the National Weather Service throughout the duration of the heat event. These regular coordination meetings were held throughout the heat wave to facilitate a coordinated response between the City and partner agencies.

Protecting People

Seattle Parks and Recreation kept four Community Centers with air conditioning open to the public as cooling centers from Tuesday, July 26 to Saturday, July 30:  Rainier Beach, International District Chinatown, and Magnuson Park. Northgate Community Center was open Tuesday, July 26 through Friday, July 29. In total, 58 people utilized Community Centers.

Five senior centers served as cooling locations: Central Area Senior Center, Greenwood Senior Center, Pike Market Senior Center, Senior Center of West Seattle, and Southeast Seattle Senior Center. Additionally, the Greenwood Senior extended their hours through Saturday, July 30. Aging and Disability Services (ADS), purchased eight air conditioning units which were delivered to senior centers, and caseworkers made 1,703 check-in calls with at-risk long-term clients and provided 38 fans during the severe weather event.

The Seattle Public Library rescheduled staff to open all air-conditioned branches on days that they were scheduled to be closed (with the exception of the Magnolia and Madrona-Sally Goldmark branches on Friday, July 29 due to lack of staff). These locations served nearly 30,000 people during the July heat event.

The City’s HOPE Team, in partnership with outreach providers, focused on connecting those experiencing homelessness across the city with shelter options and cooling centers, performing welfare checks, helping with transportation needs, and providing water and other necessities to stay safe. The HOPE Team:

  • Facilitated 45 referrals to shelter
  • Made 150 referrals to cooling sites
  • Performed 225 welfare checks
  • Distributed 621 bottles of water
  • Provided basic needs supplies to 43 people

Health One was in the field handing out water, sports drinks, sharing information on cooling centers, and assisting with transportation on a case-by-case basis.

The City partnered with the King County Homelessness Regional Authority (KCRHA) to activate City Hall as a day center from July 26 through July 29. For a full recap of KCRHA’s response to severe weather, visit here.

Protecting Infrastructure

Seattle customers used about 194 million gallons per day (MGD) of water over the entire heat event. The average amount of water customers use this time of year is about 171 MGD. Seattle Public Utilities prepares for higher water consumption in the summer by refilling the City’s Mountain reservoirs in the spring and efficiently managing the water supply throughout the season.

SDOT crews sprayed cool water daily on the Ballard, Fremont, and University Bridges to prevent the draw bridges’ movable steel parts expanding and getting stuck.

Looking Ahead

In addition to the work done to respond to July’s heat wave, The City of Seattle is taking long term steps to reduce our contributions to climate change, mitigate its impacts on our community, and plan to build a more sustainable future:

  • Seattle is transitioning our infrastructure away from fossil fuels, reducing emissions, and raising standards for future construction. Residents can apply for assistance to convert oil furnaces to electric.
  • Seattle is improving our tree canopy to cool urban areas and reduce heat islands which improves health, equity, and climate resilience. Residents can apply to get free trees for their neighborhood
  • Seattle is addressing historic environmental inequities and prioritizing communities where future impacts will be highest like the Duwamish Valley neighborhoods. Residents can apply for Duwamish River Opportunity Grants
  • Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR) is in the process of adding cooling to community centers in neighborhoods most impacted by heat over the coming years.