Pacific Northwest Readies for Dangerous Heat

Several deaths already are tentatively blamed on hyperthermia
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 29, 2022 3:40 PM CDT
Northwest Prepares for More, Lasting Heat
Jalen Askari, 7, right, plugs his nose as he falls into the pool he is playing in with his siblings, from left, Amari, 5; Bella, 2; and DJ, 10, in Portland, Ore., on Tuesday.   (AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer)

Extreme heat is forecast to stretch through the weekend in the Pacific Northwest, and authorities are investigating whether triple-digit temperatures were to blame for the deaths of at least four people. The Oregon State Medical Examiner's Office said at least three people have died of suspected hyperthermia during the heat wave in Multnomah County, which includes Portland. A fourth death was suspected to have been due to heat in Umatilla County in the eastern part of the state. The deaths occurred on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday. The state medical examiner's office said the heat-related death designation is preliminary and could change, the AP reports.

Oregon and Washington have endured scorching heat since July 25, and forecasters say there will be no relief until Monday, when cool air from the Pacific Ocean blows in. Portland and Seattle could be on track to break records for the duration of the hot spell. Temperatures in Oregon's largest city are forecast to soar to 101 degrees on Friday, after setting a daily record of 102 on Tuesday. Seattle on Tuesday also reported a record daily high of 94. If temperatures rise above 90 degrees through Sunday in Seattle, that would make six straight days of such heat. Forecasters say that has never happened before in the city. The National Weather Service has extended the excessive heat warnings through Saturday evening.

Climate change is fueling longer heat waves in the Pacific Northwest, a region where weeklong heat spells were historically rare, climate experts said. Residents and officials in the Northwest have been trying to adjust to the likely reality of longer, hotter heat waves after last summer's deadly "heat dome" weather phenomenon that brought record temperatures and deaths. About 800 people died in Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia during that heat wave, which hit in late June and early July. The temperature at the time soared to an all-time high of 116 in Portland and smashed records in cities and towns across the region. Many of those who died were older and lived alone.

(More heat wave stories.)

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