Air con a scorching commodity in Spokane area that retains getting hotter
January 7, 2022 | by Noah Franklin
If the average customer in the Spokane area learns that a home’s stove needs to be replaced, he or she will likely make that decision off the ground even if the outside temperature is 10 degrees below zero.
But the same customer who faces a broken air conditioner in 90-degree heat won’t hesitate a minute in getting that unit repaired, said Nathan Norman, owner of Bill’s Heating & A / C, based in Post Falls.
“The urgency of air conditioning on a 90-degree day is much greater … in the Kootenai County and Spokane area,” said Norman. “We are so used to a cold and mild climate that it is very different at these temperatures than when you live in a climate with many hot temperatures.”
Norman’s company had a crew of about 100 technicians who were doing compulsory overtime this week to handle the non-stop calls as the forecast required conditions that could meet or exceed the 1928 all-time record of six consecutive days over 100.
The highs are expected to cross the 100 mark from Saturday through next Thursday, which would hold the 93-year-old record, said Miranda Cote, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
“There is a really strong high pressure ridge over the southwest and it will intensify until the weekend and early next week,” she said.
Avista Utilities is preparing for additional energy demands as local residents are expected to use all available resources to stay cool.
“The combination of extreme heat and drought-like conditions in the west has tightened the supply-demand balance and significantly increased energy prices,” said Avista spokeswoman Casey Fielder. “We have prepared for these conditions by reducing the maintenance activities in our power plants to ensure availability and by purchasing electricity in anticipation of increased consumption.”
To get a feel for the effects of the current heat wave, Cote noted that the average Spokane temperature for that week is 77 degrees. And since 1881, Lilac City has had an average of exactly one day a year when the temperature reaches 100 degrees, she said.
In addition, it rarely happens in June to hit the mark of the century. If the temperature hits 100 degrees on Saturday it would be the third earliest date that mark has been hit on record, she said. The heat wave also hits the region after a dry spring. Average rainfall at Spokane International Airport well into the year is 8.98 inches. In 2021, the airport has only captured 4.76 inches so far, Cote said.
“We are in a drought, so we are watching closely to see if there might be a bad fire season,” she said.
While the region did not record 100-degree temperatures in three of the last four years, mercury rose three times over the century mark in 2020. Last year, however, it didn’t reach 100 degrees until July 31st.
Reaching this heat milestone so early is not a good sign for the fire department, she said.
“2015 was one of our worst fire years ever,” said Cote. “We had the first 100 degree day on June 27th (this year). That was the fourth earliest to reach 100 degrees.
Rob Higgins has lived in and around Spokane for most of his 73 years. He grew up in a house built in 1908 near Gonzaga University. The house had no air conditioning.
Like most families in the area, Higgins, executive vice president of the Spokane Association of Realtors, said he would open the windows at night to let in cool air and close them in the morning. Later they would use box fans in windows to speed up the cooling process.
“The first time I had air conditioning was when we were building a new house in 2005,” he said. “The days were hot. You suffered from it, but you checked it at night with the windows open because it usually cooled down. “
Joel White grew up in Clark Fork, which is east of Sandpoint.
The executive director of the Spokane Home Builders Association said his family was one of the few in this small town who had air conditioning.
“My cousins had to sleep in the basement of their house because it was cooler in the summer,” he said.
Now, virtually all new homes in the area either come with air conditioning or are offered by builders as an option, he said.
“I remember hot summers in northern Idaho, but I don’t remember an episode like this with so many days of hot temperatures in a row,” White said. “I think air conditioning is increasingly seen as indispensable.”
Higgins said he conducted a study a few years ago that showed that most homes in Spokane were built in the 1940s and 1950s, before air conditioning became common.
“There’s no doubt that temperatures are rising,” said Higgins. “The major concerns for summer are forest fires and air quality. In the past five to ten years we’ve had a number of summers that have been dramatically affected by smoke. “
Unfortunately, this week doesn’t seem to be the end of the hot temperatures. Cote said the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center in North Carolina is calling for above-average temperatures for the region.
“If you look June through July 6, they show an 80% chance of abnormal temperatures,” said Cote. “Until July and the rest of the summer, a 60% chance of above-average temperatures is still observed.”
On Wednesday, the Inland Northwest Associated General Contractors issued guidelines urging builders to provide additional breaks for employees who need to work outdoors in these conditions.
The guidelines call for sports drinks that provide electrolytes to be provided in addition to water, and recommend that everyone should take breaks at the same time so workers can monitor each other.
“Provide shade and cool areas for our field workers,” wrote Curt Nead, the association’s director of security. “Remember that heat sickness can kill.”
White said construction crews and farm workers are at extreme risk if they do not prepare for the weather.
“You really have to take care of yourself in this heat,” he said. “When you go to Las Vegas, that’s normal. It’s not for us. “