Whidbey residents find ways to stay cool in record hot weather

According to the WSU weather station in Coupeville, temperatures reached 96 degrees on Monday.

People found many different and often creative ways to beat the heat as temperatures shattered records in the Pacific Northwest over the weekend and into this week.

Restaurants shuttered, cooling centers opened to people and animals alike, shelter dogs were fed frozen treats and kids splashed in the water all across Whidbey Island.

According to data from the Washington State University weather station in Coupeville, temperatures reached 96 degrees on Monday. At the weather station in Langley, temperatures soared to nearly 99 degrees on Sunday.

Langley Mayor Scott Chaplin reported that some citizens were wading into Puget Sound and sleeping outside on their porches at night to stay cool.

Readings at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island indicated the high was 87 on Sunday, although Public Affairs Officer Michael Welding said things were hotter in downtown Oak Harbor. At Windjammer Park, several kids took advantage of the newly reopened splash park.

Unable to beat the heat, several businesses — such as the BBQ Joint and Seabolt’s Smokehouse in Oak Harbor, Prima Bistro and Saltwater Fish House & Oyster Bar in Langley and Cozy’s Roadhouse and the Whidbey Island Bagel Factory in Clinton — closed their doors for the duration of the hot weather.

But other businesses, such as Sweet Mona’s Chocolates in Langley and Hierophant Meadery in Freeland, offered an oasis with an abundance of air-conditioning.

Cooling centers at WhidbeyHealth and the Sno-Isle Libraries opened this past weekend and stayed open through Monday.

All non-livestock animals were welcomed into the hospital’s pet-friendly cooling center, which was separate from patient care areas, to seek relief.

Kurt Batdorf, a communications specialist for the library system, said the Langley Library, which is normally closed on Sundays, welcomed 54 people into its climate-controlled space June 27. Cold beverages were provided and patrons were waiting outside the door at opening time.

Staff at the Oak Harbor Library reported more customers than usual on Monday, many of whom expressed gratitude for the chance to cool off.

One woman in Clinton even opened her home and pool to neighbors and virtual strangers alike. As part of a Facebook post on a community page, Sue Forbes welcomed visitors Monday to text her about stopping by to cool off in her air-conditioned abode.

“Sometimes we all forget that if just one of us shares a little bit, it makes a tremendous difference,” she said.

Kids and pets were also invited to frolic in her expansive backyard pool.

Forbes said five different groups and several individuals have contacted her about continuing the service in the future. She said she will likely keep her home open during the summer, especially if temperatures are only in the 70s or 80s.

“There’s no reason not to, right?” she said. “We lose nothing and we gain friendships.”

Animal lovers all over Whidbey strived to ensure the well-being of furry creatures in the heat. Over at shelters run by the Whidbey Animals’ Improvement Foundation, hot dogs frozen in water were fed to hot dogs, who took dips in kiddie pools to stay cool.

Jean Favini of Oasis for Animals, a no-kill animal nonprofit, pulled off a grueling rescue in the heat of a total of eight cats and kittens, all of which were living under an abandoned trailer in Freeland.

“I try not to think of how many more are out there,” she said, adding that the paucity of spay and neuter appointments due to COVID-19 will lead to even more litters of kittens than usual this year.

Surprisingly, even with the heat, the island’s fire departments did not respond to any major fires, as of Monday afternoon.

Chief Ed Hartin of Central Whidbey Island Fire and Rescue said there was a small vegetation fire on Ebey Road that was caused by fireworks, but other than that, call volume has been normal for this time of year.

“I’ve been a little bit surprised,” he said.

South Whidbey Fire/EMS, on the other hand, received 12 calls Saturday and 16 calls Sunday, well above the fire department’s average of five calls per day. About half of those calls were directly related to the heat, according to Jon Gabelein, a public information officer for the department.

Some of these included medical issues, such as people walking on hot pavement or feeling sick due to the sweltering weather. Three calls involved hot branches snapping off and falling onto power lines. Four calls were “false alarms” — smoke detectors in homes going off in high heat when no fire was present.

Emergency medical services at WhidbeyHealth experienced a smaller volume of calls than normal.

“We’re attributing this to the excessive heat and our community staying home,” said Conor O’Brien, a spokesperson for the hospital district.

About 20 percent of patients accessing the emergency department Saturday through Monday did so for heat-related emergencies. Eleven patients were seen primarily because of weather-related symptoms, although more could have had the symptoms as a secondary cause for visiting.

“We have not admitted anyone for inpatient care due to heatstroke or heat-related symptoms at this time,” O’Brien said Monday afternoon.

A boy cools off in the newly opened splash park. (Photo by Karina Andrew/Whidbey News-Times)

A boy cools off in the newly opened splash park. (Photo by Karina Andrew/Whidbey News-Times)

Ian Lambert, 13 months old, plays with a hose to stay cool.

Ian Lambert, 13 months old, plays with a hose to stay cool.