Historic Northwest heat wave may have claimed hundreds of lives


SALEM, Oregon – Hundreds of deaths in Canada, Oregon and Washington could have been caused by the historic heat wave that ravaged the Pacific Northwest and shattered all-time temperature records in generally temperate cities .

British Columbia Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe said her office received reports of at least 486 “sudden and unexpected deaths” between Friday and 1 p.m. Wednesday. Normally, she said about 165 people would die in the province over a five-day period.

“While it is too early to say for sure how many of these deaths are heat-related, it is likely that the significant increase in reported deaths is attributable to extreme weather conditions,” LaPointe said in a statement.

Like Seattle, many homes in Vancouver, British Columbia do not have air conditioning.

“Vancouver has never experienced heat like this and unfortunately dozens of people are dying of it,” said Vancouver Police Sgt. Steve Addison said in a statement.

Authorities in Washington state had linked more than 20 deaths to the heat, but that number was likely to rise.

The heat wave was caused by what meteorologists described as a dome of high pressure over the northwest and made worse by man-made climate change, making these extreme weather events more likely and more intense. . Seattle, Portland and many other cities have broken all-time heat records, with temperatures in some places reaching above 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46 Celsius).

As temperatures cooled significantly in western Washington, Oregon and British Columbia on Wednesday, interior regions were still experiencing triple-digit temperatures as the weather system was moving east into the Intermountain West and Plains.

Environment Canada issued heat warnings for southern Alberta and Saskatchewan on Wednesday. Heat warnings were also in place for parts of Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana.

In Alberta, “a prolonged, dangerous and historic heat wave will persist this week,” Environment Canada said.

Very high temperatures or humidity conditions posed a high risk of heat stroke or heat exhaustion.

In a statement, the Multnomah County, Oregon, medical examiner blamed 45 heat deaths on hyperthermia, an abnormally high body temperature caused by the body’s inability to manage heat. The victims were between 44 and 97 years old.

The county that includes Portland said that between 2017 and 2019, there were just 12 hyperthermia deaths in all of Oregon.

“This was a real health crisis that highlighted just how deadly an extreme heat wave can be, especially for otherwise vulnerable people,” said Dr Jennifer Vines, county health official, in a statement.

The King County Medical Examiner’s Office, which covers an area including Seattle, said at least 13 people have died from the heat. The victims were between 61 and 97 years old.

In eastern Washington, Spokane firefighters on Wednesday found two people who died in an apartment building suffering from symptoms of heat stress, KREM television reported.

The heat has led a utility company in Spokane to impose gradual blackouts due to strain on the power grid. Avista Utilities says it tries to limit outages to one hour per customer.

Renee Swecker, 66, of Clayton, Wash., Visited a fountain in downtown Spokane’s Riverfront Park on Wednesday with her grandchildren, saying they “went wherever there was water. ‘water”.

“I pray for rain every day,” Swecker said.


Morris reported from Vancouver, British Columbia. Associated Press writer Nicholas K. Geranios contributed from Spokane, Washington.

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