While many Portlanders retreat indoors to escape the heat wave, others are commuting to work – outdoors, in food carts, on delivery routes


With the KOIN Tower parking gate on Southwest Clay Street out of order, building engineer Matt Tucker worked with a crew to direct traffic and make repairs.

The heat may be unprecedented for Portland, but working outdoors in high temperatures is nothing new for Tucker.

“I’ve been doing this for over 20 years. It’s always work inside and out, ”he said. “It kind of comes with the territory. “

As for what it would take for him to bow out for the day, Tucker laughed. “It would take a lot more than a little heat, because I have to eat.

As many Portlanders retreated to their homes or offices on Sunday and Monday as the mercury rose to set record after record, others got to work as usual – outside, in warm buildings or by entering and exiting delivery trucks.

Some started their shifts earlier or shortened their shifts to avoid the hottest part of the day, and in the afternoon there were fewer people working outside in Portland. Even many indoor businesses have closed down completely due to the excessive heat.

On the dozen food carts on Southwest Fourth Avenue near Portland State University, Maria Castro’s food cart was one of only two that opened its doors and lit her stove on the day. hottest in Portland history.

She closed the cart Friday afternoon, Saturday and Sunday due to the weather but reopened at 9 a.m. on Monday, ready to feed.

“We have decided to reopen the doors because a lot of people are calling and calling to say they want to eat,” she said.

Taqueria Villanueva 2 was one of only two food carts open to a dozen in a downtown Portland pod on the hottest day in Portland history. April Rubin / staff

However, they were ready to close for the day at 2pm after a morning and afternoon with lots of customers. It’s eight hours earlier than their usual closing time. Castro said working in a restaurant had accustomed her to hot kitchens, but it didn’t look like that. The food cart is air conditioned, she said, but the stoves and outside heat made the job difficult.

This weekend was the first taqueria closure since the family opened the cart nine months ago, Castro said.

“The day the snow fell, we opened again,” she said. “A lot of people called us because they didn’t have food or a place to go. Thanks be to God, we were able to open them and feed them too.

Dana Carstensen, a 35-year-old hazardous waste technician at a depot facility in Oregon City, worked all weekend as high temperatures soared in the 90s and then the 100s.

He and his colleagues wear full protective suits, trapping heat and even preventing a breeze in the facility to bring some relief as they carry deposited household chemicals and other materials that cannot be thrown away. in the trash cans at the edge of the street.

“You just can’t escape it. It’s just inflexible, ”Carstensen said on Monday, his day off. “You drink tons of water, we have Gatorade there, but people still come in for services. You still have to do the work, and the work we do is quite physical.

The facility closed early Saturday and Sunday, as the hottest temperatures set in. Despite this, some workers reported bouts of nausea. Carstensen became so dizzy that he had to lean against something or sit down.

“Your body is spending so much energy just trying to keep cool,” he said.

Carstensen said he probably should have made himself sick if he had been scheduled to work a fifth day in a row. Still, he said it’s hard to say the facility should have shut down completely.

“In the waste industry, waste has to go,” he said. The rubbish must flow, otherwise the company will stop. People don’t think about it, but it’s a huge amount of waste that is still being generated, rain or shine.

But he said he would like his employer, his union – the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Local 3580 – and the state to develop data-driven rules to dictate what this must be done as excessively hot days are becoming more and more common.

“It’s new territory for everyone,” he said.

Demond Harris spent Monday afternoon doing what he does every day: delivering packages for Amazon. He parked on Southwest Second Avenue in front of the Keller Auditorium shortly after noon to drop off a package.

Harris said working outside during the heat wave was exactly what he signed up for.

“I just tried to make the most of it,” he said, “Trying to keep his cool. Crazy weather conditions right now, but we’re going to get by. I have a lot. of water.

If he started to feel dizzy or dehydrated, he said he would consider going inside for the day.

“They say if you feel like you can’t go any further, come back, because safety is the first priority,” he said.

Mike Hines

On the hottest day in Portland history, Parr Lumber truck driver Mike Hines laid down piles of lumber for construction work in the Portland metro area on Monday.Ardeshir Tabrizian

Mike Hines, truck driver for Parr Lumber, had only one stop left after dropping loads of lumber into a house under construction off Southwest Taylor’s Ferry Road.

Hines said he worked quickly on Monday, but didn’t think about stopping it.

“It was either that or not getting paid,” he said.

Alaska Airlines maintained its schedule at Portland International Airport, according to a press release from the company, delivering fresh water and towels to employees on the tarmac. It also offers “cooling vans”, for those who need an air-conditioned break.

“These extra steps can slow down our operations, but keeping our teams safe and cool is our top priority,” the airline said.

Alaska estimates that the temperatures on an airport ramp are generally 20 degrees higher than normal. If that were true, then porters and other outdoor workers at Portland International Airport worked at 133 degrees on Monday.

Elsewhere at the airport, Hoffman Construction crews were absent from the site of a massive $ 2 billion renovation of the terminal.

As temperatures approached triple digits on Saturday, Portland’s largest construction company began shutting down all of its outdoor jobsites.

“Whenever temperatures in the northwest peak in the 90s, we implement safety protocols around heat stress,” said Daniel Drinkward, vice president of Hoffman.


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