This weekend’s heat wave in Western Washington has produced proof, as if any more were needed, that Seattleites are weather wimps. The 100-degree temperatures that don’t bother hardy Southwesterners have Seattle’s summer soldiers seeking excuses to visit air-cooled locations, even if it’s only the supermarket.
Part of the problem is that Seattleites have grown so used to temperate weather that any infrequent temperature below zero or above 90 is considered an existential crisis.
Take those days when it snows in the Emerald City. While some hardy Seattleites adore snowy weather and use any excuse to break out sleds and snowboards, there are others who cringe when they hear the three scariest words: “lowland snow expected.” There are reasons that the snow wimps have collywobbles. It’s because the city is ill-prepared to respond by keeping our steep hills and streets in drivable or bus-able condition.
To add to the city’s snowbound misery, there are the many Midwest expats who insist on making tired weather jokes. They sling one-liners like: “Seattle in the snow is like Mad Max with Amazon vans.” Or even, “who’d dream of seeing so many Subaru Outbacks losing control in one place?”
Triple-digit heat in Seattle — although very rare — is a similar catastrophe. Seattle has officially hit 100 degrees only three times. Nearby Portland tends to be warmer and has recorded triple digit numbers up to 107 degrees.
A factor in Seattle’s aversion to heat is once again the city’s lack of preparedness. Only about 44 percent of the city’s households are equipped with air conditioning, and Seattle ranks as the least air-conditioned big city in the nation. Add to that the region’s relative humidity — around 70 percent most days — which aggravates the overall discomfort.
Fortunately, we know how deficient we are. When weather gurus predicted that a “heat wave” was about to hit, the city immediately started setting up cooling centers for the most vulnerable. Those sites are now operational and listed online and in The Seattle Times. Meanwhile, city teams are taking air-conditioning units to deficient senior facilities.
The soaring temperatures have Seattle’s Department of Transportation (SDOT) workers spraying the city’s three steel drawbridges with water twice a day. In the interests of “do no harm,” they’ve even added vitamin C to the water to counteract chlorine content.
The quick response to alleviate the heat hasn’t stopped the jokesters. One of many: It’s so warm in Seattle today that at low tide you can harvest steamed clams.