Dozens of deaths could be related to the historic northwest heat wave – NBC Los Angeles

The dire toll of the historic Pacific Northwest heat wave became more apparent when authorities in Canada, Washington state and Oregon announced on Wednesday that they are investigating more than 100 deaths likely caused by scorching temperatures that broke all time records.

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

In Vancouver, British Columbia, police said they had responded to more than 65 sudden deaths since Friday. Washington state authorities had linked more than half a dozen deaths to the heat, but that number is set to rise.

“Vancouver has never experienced heat like this and unfortunately dozens of people die because of it,” Sgt. Steve Addison said to Vancouver police in a statement.

The heat wave was caused by what meteorologists described as the high pressure dome over the northwest, and exacerbated by man-made climate change that makes such extreme weather events more likely and more intense. Seattle, Portland, and many other cities have all broken heat records, with temperatures in some locations exceeding 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46 degrees Celsius).

While temperatures in western Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia had cooled significantly by Wednesday, inland areas were still sweating through triple-digit temperatures as the weather system shifted east to Intermountain West and the Plains.

Amid the dangerous heat and drought in the American West, crews watched forest fires that can explode in extreme weather conditions.

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

In Alberta, “an ongoing, dangerous and historic heat wave will continue this week,” Environment Canada said in a press release.

The very high temperature or humidity conditions were also expected to present an increased risk of heat stroke or heat exhaustion.

British Columbia’s chief medical examiner Lisa Lapointe said her office would typically receive around 130 death reports over a four-day period. At least 233 deaths were reported from Friday through Monday afternoon, she said, adding that coroners are determining if the record breaking heat played a role. As in Seattle, many Vancouver homes do not have air conditioning.

In a statement, the medical examiner from Multnomah County, Oregon blamed 45 heat deaths from hyperthermia, an abnormally high body temperature caused by a failure of the body to handle heat. The victims were between 44 and 97 years old.

The county that Portland is a part of said there were only 12 deaths from hyperthermia in all of Oregon between 2017 and 2019.

“This has been a real health crisis that has shown how deadly an extreme heat wave can be, especially for people who are otherwise at risk,” said Dr. Jennifer Vines, the county health officer, in a statement.

The King County’s coroner’s office, which covers an area including Seattle, said at least two people had died from hyperthermia. In neighboring Snohomish County, three men aged 51, 75 and 77 died after suffering heat stroke in their homes, the coroner’s office told the Daily Herald on Tuesday in Everett, Washington.

In western Washington, the Spokane Fire Department found two dead in an apartment building on Wednesday who were suffering from symptoms of heat-related stress, TV station KREM reported.

The heat resulted in a utility company in Spokane imposing rolling blackouts due to the strain on the power grid. Avista Utilities tries to limit the downtime to one hour per customer.

Heather Rosentrater, an Avista vice president of energy, said the outages were a distribution problem and not a result of a lack of power in the system.

Renee Swecker, 66, of Clayton, Wash., Visited a fountain in Riverfront Park in downtown Spokane with her grandchildren Wednesday and said they “go anywhere there is water.”

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

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Morris reported from Vancouver, British Columbia. Associated Press Nicholas K. Geranios contributed from Salem, Oregon.

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