Oregon heat raises fire, social distancing concerns


Temps could tie all-time record of 86 for May 9

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Hot weather returns to Oregon this weekend, the first such stretch during the era of social distancing in the pandemic.

This weekend temperatures hover around the mid-80s, and it’s possible we could tie or break the all-time record of 86 on Saturday.

A little July for your May

It’s a concern for health officials who are still advising social distancing and wearing masks to flatten the coronavirus curve. On Thursday, Gov. Kate Brown released a phased approach to re-opening the state and explained residents will still be living with the virus until there is reliable treatment or prevention — which remains many months off — and that the primary tools the state has to combat the spread are physical distancing and hygiene.

Brown introduces new guidance for re-opening Oregon starting May 15

But when the temps are in the 80s and it’s Mother’s Day weekend, there is a concern people will not abide by these guidelines.

Cannon Beach closed

Cannon Beach City Manager Bruce St. Denis issued an order closing the beaches adjacent to the city. The beaches are closed from 7 a.m. Saturday through 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 12.

St. Denis noted the beautiful summer-like weather was “ideal beach weather.” He said similar weather caused problems back in March when Brown announced the stay-home order.

“The town was inundated and pretty much it looked like it was the middle of July,” St. Denis said. He said the small town has small sidewalks and people weren’t obeying social distancing guidelines.

The City of Seaside closed its beach after those first few crowded days.

“Exacerbating these concerns, other beaches closest to the Portland metropolitan region — specifically adjacent to the City of Seaside — have been closed. Such a closure funnels the potential influx of visitors to the beaches adjacent to the City of Cannon Beach.”

Now with another beautiful weekend on the horizon, St. Denis worries the area will be flooded once more with visitors.

“We understand the desire to come to the coast, that makes a lot of sense, but it’s not safe to do so now,” he cautioned. “We want to make sure the efforts put forth so far are worth it.”

Anyone who does try to visit can expect to be turned away from the beaches by police, St. Denis said.

The reality of the situation is disappointing for many people who enjoy visiting the Oregon Coast. Officials are asking for the public’s continued patience as they make plans to reopen.

“We are close—to the point there might be some relaxing of restrictions from the governor’s office—so we are just looking at the immediate: this particular weekend,” St. Denis said. “And we will be having further discussion with council.

“We look forward to seeing everybody once this whole thing is over.”

Wildfires possible

Beyond that, fire officials sent a warning this weekend’s hot and dry conditions are prime conditions for wildfires.

The Oregon Department of Forestry said right now these are conditions the state would normally see in early July.

“Well, we are again facing drought-like conditions that we’ve had for the last several years, 8 of the last 9 years to my recollection, where we’re going into spring and summer with very dry conditions,” spokesman Tom Field said. “So it is a concern.”

On top of the heat is the fact our precipitation levels for the last month are well below where they need to be.

Fire officials are encouraging all Oregonians to use caution with any fire-related activities.

KOIN 6 News will have more information later in the day.

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