Death toll in Northwest heat wave expected to continue rising

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More deaths are being linked to the heat wave that scorched the Pacific Northwest, with medical staffers who treated people overwhelmed by triple-digit temperatures saying the true toll isn’t known yet.

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

TOWN RAVAGED BY WILDFIRE AFTER ENDURING CANADA’S ALL-TIME HOTTEST TEMPS

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

British Columbia’s chief coroner, Lisa LaPointe, said Friday that 719 sudden and unexpected deaths were reported in the province during the heat wave, an unprecedented number. LaPointe said the number of deaths is three times more than what would normally occur during such a period.

A Salvation Army EMS vehicle is setup as a cooling station as people lineup to get into a splash park while trying to beat the heat in Calgary, Alberta, Wednesday, June 30, 2021. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press via AP)

The intense heat is 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 authorities have linked about 30 deaths to excessive heat, with more reports coming in every day.

“I think, over time, we will understand that the numbers are only going to climb,” said Dr. Steve Mitchell, director of Harborview Medical Center’s Emergency Medicine Department in Seattle. “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.”

People walk near Pike Place Market, Tuesday, June 29, 2021, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

People walk near Pike Place Market, Tuesday, June 29, 2021, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

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 those visits, 21% required people to be admitted to the hospital.

Monday had the most ER visits, with 702, the health department said. It was the hottest day of the heat wave in many areas, with Seattle, Portland and other cities smashing all-time heat records. It reached 108 degrees in Seattle, and 116 in Portland, Oregon’s largest city.

Contributing to the health woes is the fact that thousands of homes in the Pacific Northwest lack air conditioning, officials have said.

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

People sleep at a cooling shelter set up during an unprecedented heat wave in Portland, Oregon, U.S. June 27, 2021. (REUTERS/Maranie Staab)

People sleep at a cooling shelter set up during an unprecedented heat wave in Portland, Oregon, U.S. June 27, 2021. (REUTERS/Maranie Staab)

Forecasters blamed the temperatures that spiked more than 30 degrees above normal on a “heat dome” that parked a strong 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.

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Experts say the hot weather is a harbinger of things to come as climate change affects global weather patterns.

The heat wave 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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