PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — As the historic record high temperatures continue in Portland metro and throughout Oregon, hundreds of people are using the cooling centers in Multnomah County.

Not only are these extremely high temperatures historic and record-setting, they are dangerous, life-threatening. Our bodies aren’t used to this kind of heat in the Pacific Northwest. It can take weeks for people to acclimate to hot climates.

A lot of people also aren’t prepared. Multnomah County Health Officer Dr. Jennifer Vines said they’re seeing more people at emergency rooms along with more calls to 911.

Multnomah County Health Officer Dr. Jennifer Vines, June 28, 2021 (KOIN)

“We are seeing a dramatic increase in visits to emergency departments and urgent cares, to a high of 39 since the heatwave started,” Vines told KOIN 6 News. “That’s in comparison to maybe one or two that we would expect in a typical June day. So, that’s pretty dramatic.”

Dennis Henry, who said he’s lived in Portland since 1968, is surprised at the temperatures in the region. His apartment does not have air conditioning and he went to a cooling shelter on Sunday.

“Yesterday and night were not as bad as what has continued,” Henry said. “I think I’d get in while it was bad and not tragic. And it has become practically tragic.”

Cooling center coordinator Alex Sanchez said they’ve had about 350 people at their three cooling centers on Monday, including about 200 at the Oregon Convention Center.

Anyone is welcome at the Oregon Convention Center and pets are allowed.

However, Multnomah County officials are calling for volunteers to help at the cooling shelters overnight through at least 9 a.m. on Wednesday. Click here if you’re interested in volunteering at the Oregon Convention Center and click here if you’re interested in volunteering at Arbor Lodge.

Life-or-death for homeless

One of the hardest hit groups in this heat is the homeless living on the streets.

Monday afternoon, Portland Fire paramedics pulled up outside Street Roots, the homeless advocacy group, to help two people suffering from heat illness. One was taken to the hospital for treatment.

There are major efforts by several social service organizations, the city, county and volunteers to give out water, Gatorade and water bottles by going tent to tent to help reach the homeless. Many who are staying inside their tents on the sidewalk didn’t have warning about this historic heat wave.

One reason they don’t go to a cooling center is they don’t want to leave their tent and their belongings out if they can’t keep an eye on them.