The Desperate Hunt for Air Conditioners in Oregon and Washington

In Washington and Oregon, air conditioners are a valuable asset due to the unprecedented heat wave. On Monday, Portland and Seattle set new records with temperatures of 116 and 110 degrees. Over 35 cities in the region broke or tied their heat records by experiencing temperatures up to 40 degrees higher than normal. Many residents find it difficult to escape the heat inside their homes. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that only 44% of homes in Seattle have AC units, the lowest percentage of any metropolitan area in the nation. With 79 percent of the homes in Portland equipped with AC units, they are better prepared to deal with heat. Portland still lags behind major cities like New Orleans, Houston, Atlanta, Miami, Washington, D.C., Houston, Houston, Atlanta, etc. Nevertheless, Portland has more air conditioning than other large cities.AdvertisementAdvertisementAdvertisementAn air conditioner isn't just a comfort for those living in the heatwave; it is essential to keep them from heatstroke, heat exhaustion and other heat-related diseases that could cause death. At least 70 deaths in Washington and Oregon were linked to the heat wave over the past few days. This number is expected to rise. There have been many deaths in excess in British Columbia, Canada.Many Pacific Northwest residents, who are used to cold and rainy summers, initially thought the heat would not last and that they would be able to get through it without AC. Many people changed their minds after the heat wave, but it was too late to purchase any cooling systems. Jane C. Hu, a Slate contributor from Seattle, joked that it was like trying to purchase an AC unit right now. However, most of them were gone. Christina Cornell, a spokeswoman for Home Depot, said that the merchandising team and supply chain teams are trying to get in-demand items back in stock.AdvertisementAdvertisementYarelys Rivera (a Seattle resident) was also unsuccessful in obtaining an AC. She couldn't find any at Lowes or Home Depot. Target and Walmart websites indicated that the air conditioners were out-of-stock. Yarelys says that this was true for fans too. All pedestal and floor fans had been sold out. Steve Salazar is Lowes corporate communications director. He said that the store teams have been busy over the past few weeks keeping people cool and that they continue to ship additional products to local stores.Eugenia, a Seattle resident, was fortunate to have a portable air conditioner. She told me that the air conditioner had sprung a leak after her family used it so often recently. Eugenia decided not to buy a new AC, even though she was able to repair it. She shared with me a screenshot taken from a Seattle Russian Mamas and Papas private Facebook group. One of the members had written that she bought the AC at Costco but that she needed to wait in line for the store at 6 a.m.AdvertisementAdvertisementVirtual lines are also being formed in Washington and Oregon for people who want to be able to wait. Kellys Appliances in Eugene, Oregon manager I spoke with Tuesday said that the next shipment would be Wednesday. They had already compiled a list of 50 people that they needed to contact when new inventory arrives. According to the manager, AC units were sold out within 15 minutes the last time they bought them.The manager stated that my owner had been working non-stop. Our truck drivers drove up to Seattle to try to find more air conditioners.Based on conversations with the company, I found that there were no units in Seattle or Portland. On Monday and Tuesday, shelves in both Walmart in Eugene and Hoys Ace Hardware, Yakima, Washington were empty when I called. The manager in the latter hung up immediately after stating that they had sold out. He seemed annoyed at being asked the same question repeatedly, which is understandable. My experience was not the worst. On a June 25 Yellow Pages review, a potential customer stated that when he called Lowes Portland to inquire about purchasing an air conditioner for his home, the manager laughed.AdvertisementDeWhitt Portlands Appliance experts informed me that they had received hundreds of calls regarding air conditioners on Monday. This was the hottest day of the year. They had 140 AC units on hand, and all of them were gone by Saturday. Hoys Ace Hardware, Seattle, also ran out of AC units on Thursday, June 24, and they were gone by Saturday. Customers were willing to fight for their air conditioners. I was able to speak with most employees at hardware stores and they said that although some customers were disappointed by the lack of AC units, they were understanding.AdvertisementAlthough the temperature has dropped a little, forecasts predict that the unusual heat will continue to be felt in the Pacific Northwest until next week. People who have given up on finding ways to cool their homes may spend more time in air-conditioned public places like libraries, grocery stores, and movie theatres. Many air-conditioned hotels have been sold.If you are considering giving up on purchasing an A/C, it may be worth looking ahead and getting an air purifier before they sell out. The heat is causing wildfires to start earlier than usual, according to residents of Seattle and Portland.Future Tense is a collaboration between Slate, New America and Arizona State University. It examines emerging technologies and public policy.