Death toll from Northwest heat wave expected to keep rising

by Joseph K. Clark

Each day, more deaths are being linked to the heatwave that struck the Pacific Northwest this past week

SEATTLE — Each day, more deaths are linked to the heatwave that struck the Pacific Northwest this past week, with medical staff who treated people overwhelmed by temperatures well above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 Celsius) saying the toll from the extreme weather will keep creeping up.

Northwest heat Hundreds of deaths were being investigated as heat-related in Oregon, Washington state, and British Columbia. The dangerous heat began June 25 and only started to subside in some areas on Tuesday.

The death toll in Oregon alone has reached at least 95, the state medical examiner said on Friday, with most occurring in Multnomah County, which encompasses Portland. The deaths include a Guatemalan immigrant who collapsed at a plant nursery in a rural Oregon town during the soaring heat.

In Canada, British CColumbia’schief coroner, Lisa Lapointe, said Friday that 719 sudden and unexpected deaths have been reported in the province during the heatwave. That number over seven days is unprecedented. LaPointe said the number of fatalities is three times more than what would typically occur during the same period.

The intense temperatures are believed to be a significant contributing factor in the jump, but the number is expected to increase as more information is compiled, LaPointe said. Washington state authorities have linked about 30 deaths to the heat, with more reports coming in each day this week.

“”think, over time, we will understand that the numbers are only going to climb,”” said Dr. Steve Mitchell, director of Harborview Medical CCenter’sEmergency Medicine Department in Seattle. “”know, in my experience, that I’m expecting to see much larger numbers than what we are currently able to report because of talking to EMS colleagues who were experiencing twice as many calls for help that day.”” There were 1,792 emergency room visits for suspected heat-related illness since June 25, the Washington State Department of Health said Thursday. Of those visits, 21% required people to be admitted to the hospital.

“”ith this latest heat emergency, when we were dealing with it, the only thing comparable at Harborview and in the region that wwe’veexperienced recently was actually the early days of COVID,”  “Mitchell said.

Forecasters blamed the temperatures that spiked more than 30 degrees above average on a “”eat dome”  “that parked a solid high-pressure system over the region. Temperatures cooled considerably in western Washington and Oregon by Tuesday, though a heat warning was still in effect for parts of the interior Northwest and Canada.

Experts say the hot weather is a harbinger of things to come as climate change affects global weather patterns. The extraordinary heatwave stretched into the upper reaches of California, where several wildfires erupted in the hot, dry conditions, making it difficult for firefighters trying to beat back the flames that have driven thousands from their homes in mountain communities and burned several residences.

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