Oregon, Washington Report Over 100 Heat-Related Deaths After Record Temperatures

Oregon and Washington state have reported a total of more than 100 heat-related deaths after temperatures reached record highs this past week, the Associated Press said, and the numbers in the Pacific Northwest are expected to increase.

Oregon has recorded at least 79 fatalities, according to the state medical examiner, while Washington authorities said about 30 deaths are connected to the heat. One of the deaths in Oregon was a Guatemalan immigrant who collapsed while working at a plant nursery in the extreme heat.

"I think, over time, we will understand that the numbers are only going to climb," said Dr. Steve Mitchell, director of the Harborview Medical Center's Emergency Medicine Department in Seattle. "I'm expecting to see much larger numbers than what we are currently able to report because of talking to EMS colleagues who were experiencing twice as many calls for help that day."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Oregon, Washington Intense Heat Kills 100
Oregon has reported at least 79 deaths linked to the past week's heat wave. Above, people and their pets rest at the Oregon Convention Center cooling station in Portland. Kathryn Elsesser/Getty Images

The dangerous heat began June 25 and only began to subside in some areas on Tuesday. Hundreds of deaths were being investigated as heat related in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia.

In Canada, British Columbia's chief coroner, Lisa Lapointe, said her office received reports of at least 486 "sudden and unexpected deaths" between June 25 and Wednesday. Normally, she said about 165 people would die in the province over a five-day period. She said that it was too soon to confirm how many deaths were related to the heat but that it was likely behind most of them.

Washington state authorities have linked about 30 deaths to the heat, with more reports coming in each day this week.

There were 1,792 emergency room visits for suspected heat-related illness since June 25, the Washington state Department of Health said Thursday. Of those visits, 21 percent required people to be admitted to the hospital.

Monday had the most emergency room visits, with 702, the health department said. It was the hottest day of the heat wave in many areas, with Seattle, Portland, Oregon and other cities smashing all-time heat records. It reached 108 F (42 C) in Seattle, and 116 F (47) in Oregon's largest city.

"With this latest heat emergency, when we were dealing with it, the only thing comparable at Harborview and in the region that we've experienced recently was actually the early days of COVID," Mitchell said.

Forecasters blamed the temperatures that spiked more than 30 degrees above normal on a "heat dome" that parked a strong high pressure system over the region. Temperatures cooled considerably in western Washington and Oregon by Tuesday, though a heat warning was still in effect for parts of the interior Northwest and Canada.

Experts say the hot weather is a harbinger of things to come as climate change affects global weather patterns.

The extraordinary heat wave stretched into the upper reaches of California, where several wildfires erupted in the hot, dry conditions, making it difficult for firefighters trying to beat back the flames that have driven thousands from their homes in mountain communities and burned several residences.

Oregon, Washington Report 100 Heat-Wave Deaths
A Salvation Army EMS vehicle is set up as a cooling station as people line up to get into a splash park in Calgary, Alberta, on Wednesday. Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press/Associated Press