Severe Heat Wave Causes Fatalities Across the US

Several people died throughout the country on Monday as a result of extreme temperatures that struck earlier than ever, and higher than ever, in some regions that typically don’t experience this type of heat.

On Monday, officials in Oregon said they suspect that heat is to blame for four deaths that occurred in the Portland region. That follows the death of a motorcyclist during extreme temperatures in Death Valley, California, over the weekend.

Across the country, more than 146 million people were under a heat alert on Monday. The majority of those alerts came in the western part of the country, where states such as Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Nevada and California were all under what’s called an excessive heat warning.

That’s the highest alert issued by the National Weather Service. Heat advisories were also issued for millions of other people living along the East Coast, in addition to Mississippi and Alabama.

The heat waves that have struck much of the U.S. earlier than ever follow June ending as the warmest June on record. That’s was the 13th month in a row that a new record was set, and the 12th month in a row where the global temperatures were 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit above what they were before industrial times, according to the European climate service Copernicus.

Last weekend, many locations in the Pacific Northwest and West either broke or tied their previous records for heat. Many of those same communities were expected to continue breaking records well into this week.

The medical examiner in Multnomah County in Oregon, which Portland is part of, is investigating four deaths that are suspected to be caused by the heat. Officials said those deaths happened on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Three of those deaths involved residents of the county who were 64 years old, 75 years old and 84 years old, according to county officials. It’s also expected that heat is the primary cause of the death of a 33-year-old man who was transported to a hospital in Portland. He lived outside of the county.

On those same three days, Portland broke its daily record for temperatures, and was on pace to do so Monday again, when the forecasted high temperature was 102 degrees. The heat was not expected to subside until at least Tuesday night, meteorologist Hannah Chandler-Cooley of the National Weather Service said.

She commented:

“We are looking at the potential for breaking more records.”

During a heat wave that happened in 2021 in the Pacific Northwest, 600 people were estimated to have died in western Canada, Washington and Oregon. While temperatures this time aren’t expected to reach those same highs, a major issue is how long the heat is expected to last — since many people don’t have air conditioning in that region.

Since the heat is hardly subsiding at night, people aren’t able to cool off even when the sun goes down. This problem is even worse in urban areas, where temperatures are typically much higher than they are in the suburbs because of the excessive pavement and concrete, which store heat.