More and more deaths every day are linked to the heat wave that hit the Pacific Northwest last week
SEATTLE – More and more deaths every day are linked to the heat wave that hit the Pacific Northwest last week, medical staff who treated people overwhelmed by temperatures well above 100 degrees Fahrenheit ( 38 Celsius) claiming that the toll of extreme weather continues to climb.
Hundreds of heat-related deaths were under investigation in Oregon, Washington state and British Columbia. The dangerous heat began on June 25 and did not begin to ease in some areas until Tuesday.
The death toll in Oregon alone has reached at least 79, the state medical examiner said, with most occurring in Multnomah County, which encompasses Portland. The deaths include a Guatemalan immigrant who collapsed while working at a nursery in a rural Oregon town during the rising heat.
In Canada, BC Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe said her office received reports of at least 486 “sudden and unexpected deaths” between June 25 and Wednesday. Normally, she said about 165 people would die in the province over a five-day period. She said it was too early to confirm how many of the deaths were heat-related, but it was likely behind most of them.
Authorities in Washington state have linked about 30 heat deaths, with more reports every day this week.
“I think over time we will understand that the numbers will only increase,” said Dr. Steve Mitchell, director of the emergency medicine department at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. “I know from my experience that I expect to see much larger numbers than what we are currently able to report due to our discussions with colleagues at SMU who have received twice as much. ‘calls for help that day.
There have been 1,792 emergency room visits for suspected heat-related illness since June 25, the Washington State Department of Health said Thursday. Of these visits, 21% required admission of people to hospital.
“With this latest heat emergency, when we faced it, the only thing comparable to Harborview and the region that we’ve experienced recently was actually the early days of COVID,” Mitchell said.
Forecasters blamed the temperatures that rose more than 30 degrees above normal to a “heat dome” that parked a powerful high pressure system over the area. Temperatures cooled significantly in western Washington and Oregon on Tuesday, although a heat warning is still in effect for parts of the northwest interior and Canada.
Experts say warm weather is a harbinger of things to come as climate change affects global weather patterns.
The extraordinary heatwave spread to the upper parts of California, where several wildfires broke out in hot, dry conditions, making it difficult for firefighters trying to repel the flames that chased thousands of their houses in mountain communities and burned down several residences.