More than 500 deaths could be linked to Pacific Northwest heat wave

‘Heat dome’ torches the Pacific Northwest and kills ‘at least 500 people’ across Canada, Oregon and Washington as temperatures hit 118F – making region hotter than Death Valley

  • A historic heatwave in the Pacific Northwest has shattered records with temperatures reaching 118F 
  • British Columbia’s chief coroner is investigating whether the heat is to blame for at least 486 ‘sudden and unexpected deaths’ between Friday and Wednesday
  • Normally, about 165 people would die in the Canadian province over a five-day period, officials said 
  • Oregon health officials said more than 60 deaths have been tied to the heat 
  • More than a dozen deaths in Washington have been linked to the heat, a number that was expected to rise 
  • The heat wave was caused by what meteorologists described as a dome of high pressure over the Northwest and worsened by human-caused climate change 

The grim toll of the historic heat wave in the Pacific Northwest became more apparent as authorities in Canada, Oregon and Washington state said Wednesday they were investigating hundreds of deaths likely caused by scorching temperatures that shattered all-time records in the normally temperate region.  

British Columbia’s chief coroner, Lisa Lapointe, said her office received reports of at least 486 ‘sudden and unexpected deaths’ between Friday and Wednesday. Normally, she said about 165 people would die in the Canadian province over a five-day period.

‘While it is too early to say with certainty how many of these deaths are heat related, it is believed likely that the significant increase in deaths reported is attributable to the extreme weather,’ LaPointe said in a statement.

Many homes in Vancouver, much like Seattle, don’t have air conditioning, leaving people ill-prepared for soaring temperatures.

‘Vancouver has never experienced heat like this, and sadly dozens of people are dying because of it,’ Vancouver police Sgt Steve Addison said in a statement.

Oregon health officials said more than 60 deaths have been tied to the heat, with the state’s largest county, Multnomah, blaming the weather for 45 deaths since temperatures spiked Friday. 

More than a dozen deaths in Washington state have been linked to the heat, a number that was expected to rise.   

CANADA: 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, on  Wednesday

WASHINGTON: Katherine Milton, who is experiencing homelessness, cools off under a homemade cooling-off station and mist system that a neighbor set up in their front yard for people, especially those without homes, to use during the scorching weather of a heatwave in Seattle

WASHINGTON: Carlos Ramos hands out bottles of water and sack lunches as he works at a hydration station in front of the Union Gospel Mission in Seattle, where temperatures have soared well above 100 degrees Fahrenheit

OREGON: People rest at the Oregon Convention Center cooling station in Portland amid this week’s devastating heat wave

WASHINGTON: Firefighter Sean Condon, left and Lt Gabe Mills, check on the welfare of a man in Mission Park in Spokane, Washington during the heat wave, June 29

The heat wave was caused by what meteorologists described as a dome of high pressure over the Northwest and worsened by human-caused climate change, which is making such extreme weather events more likely and more intense 

The sweltering temperatures are being caused by a heat dome of static high-pressure hot air which traps the heat in one location

The King County medical examiner’s office, which covers an area that includes Seattle, said two people died of hyperthermia, meaning their bodies had became dangerously overheated.

In neighboring Snohomish County, three men – ages 51, 75 and 77 – died after experiencing heatstroke in their homes, the medical examiner’s office told The Daily Herald in Everett, Washington, on Tuesday. 

The heat wave was caused by what meteorologists described as a dome of high pressure over the Northwest and worsened by human-caused climate change, which is making such extreme weather events more likely and more intense.

Seattle, Portland and many other cities shattered all-time heat records, with temperatures in some places reaching above 118F (46C).

Amid the dangerous heat and drought that are gripping the American West, crews were closely monitoring wildfires that can explode in the intense weather.

In Lytton, British Columbia, there were several reports of buildings on fire on Wednesday after the region recorded Canada’s highest-ever temperature for three days in a row.

While the temperatures had cooled considerably in western Washington, Oregon and British Columbia by Wednesday, the interior regions were still sweating through triple-digit temperatures as the weather system moved east.

The government’s Environment Canada agency issued heat warnings Wednesday for the provinces of southern Alberta and Saskatchewan. 

Heat warnings also were in place for parts of states such as Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana.

In Alberta, ‘a prolonged, dangerous, and historic heat wave will persist through this week,’ Environment Canada said in a release.

The very high temperatures or humidity conditions also were expected to pose an elevated risk of heatstroke or heat exhaustion.

The wild temperatures are stretching from the US west coast up to Canada where records have now been broken for three days in a row

British Columbia’s chief coroner, Lisa Lapointe, said her office received reports of at least 486 ‘sudden and unexpected deaths’ between Friday and Wednesday. Normally, she said about 165 people would die in the Canadian province over a five-day period 

CANADA: In Vancouver, British Columbia, police have responded to more than 65 sudden deaths since Friday. Pictured: People try to beat the heat at a beach in Chestermere, Alberta, June 29

WASHINGTON: In King County, where Seattle is located, two people died of hyperthermia, and in Snohomish County, three men died from heatstroke in their homes. Pictured: A display at an Olympia Federal Savings branch in Washington  shows a temperature of 107F, June 28

CANADA: 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, on Wednesday. Environment Canada warns the torrid heat wave that has settled over much of Western Canada won’t lift for days

CANADA: Kais Bothe relaxes in the cool in the city hall pool, as temperatures hit 37 degrees Celsius in Edmonton, Alberta, on Wednesday

Officials in Bremerton, Washington, said heat may have contributed to four deaths in that Puget Sound city.

The death of a worker at an Oregon plant nursery last weekend was heat-related, employee safety agency Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration said on Tuesday.

The man was from Guatemala and had apparently arrived in the U.S. only a few months ago, said Andres Pablo Lucas, owner of Brother Farm Labor Contractor that sent the man and other workers to the nursery.

British Columbia’s chief coroner, Lisa Lapointe, said her office would normally receive about 130 death reports over a four-day period but she has received 233 reports from Friday to Monday

The man, whose name was not released, died amid sweltering temperatures Saturday at Ernst Nursery and Farms, a wholesale supplier in St Paul, 20 miles north of the capital of Salem.

Speaking in Spanish, Pablo Lucas said that when workers gathered shortly after noon on Saturday, they noticed someone was missing. 

They began searching and found his body. Pablo Lucas said he didn’t remember the man’s name.

The laborers often have the option to start working around sunrise when it is cooler and can stop around midday, but some want to stay regardless of the heat, Pablo Lucas said.

‘The people want to work, to fight to succeed. For that reason, they stay,’ he said.

In western Washington, the heat led a utility in Spokane to impose rolling blackouts because of the strain on the electrical grid. Pictured: A rainbow appears as a child plays at Miller Park’s water park in Yakima, Washington, June 28

WASHINGTON: A person uses an umbrella for shade from the sun while walking near Pike Place Market in Seattle on Tuesday

WASHINGTON: John Ford (left) a worker with the Port of Seattle, paints near a railing at the Bell Street Cruise Terminal

WASHINGTON: People wear hats to shield from the sun as they walk near Pike Place Market in Seattle on Tuesday

The United Farm Workers urged Washington Gov Jay Inslee to issue emergency heat standards protecting all farm and other outdoor workers in the state with a strong agricultural sector.

In western Washington, the heat led a utility in Spokane to impose rolling blackouts because of the strain on the electrical grid. 

About 9,300 Avista Utilities customers lost power on Monday, and the company said more planned blackouts began on Tuesday in the western Washington city of about 220,000 people.

‘We try to limit outages to one hour per customer,’ said Heather Rosentrater, an Avista vice president for energy delivery.

She said the outages were a distribution problem and did not stem from a lack of electricity in the system

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