The King County Medical Examiner’s office reported three heat-related deaths and three drownings over the weekend as a scorching heat wave encompassed much of Washington state.
The National Weather Service issued an excessive heat warning for the Puget Sound region from July 26-31, and Seattle set a record with six straight days of high temperatures above 90 degrees.
According to the medical examiner, three people — ages 64, 65 and 77 — died from hyperthermia between July 27 and 30, including one probable case, and three people — ages 22, 23 and 67 — died from accidental drownings.
The data is preliminary, and more heat-related deaths might be confirmed later.
The current death count is likely “just the tip of the iceberg” because deaths from the exacerbation of preexisting conditions do not always get reported as heat deaths, Public Health — Seattle & King County spokesperson Kate Cole said.
The state Department of Health, so far, has counted nine heat-related deaths, three of which were residents of Eastern Washington, although the count is preliminary, spokesperson Melissa Warner said. The statewide count of deaths after heat waves tend to lag behind local health departments and will not be finalized for a few months, she said.
In Oregon, the State Medical Examiner’s Office said Monday that it was investigating 14 deaths as possibly heat-related. In the Portland area, temperatures rose above 100 degrees several times over the past week.
The heat wave was also a busy time for hospitals and emergency medicine providers.
Between Tuesday and Sunday, there were 101 emergency department visits for heat-related illness in King County, according to Public Health — Seattle & King County.
Emergency medical services responded to more than 50 suspected heat-related illness reports between July 26 and July 31. Friday (July 28) was the busiest day for heat-related incidents, with 15.
Heat illness can lead to serious health problems such as kidney failure, stroke and heart attack — and in severe cases, death.
Additional heat-related deaths might be reported later because cases may not be confirmed immediately after heat exposure, the health agency said.
Last year, about 800 people died in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia during the 2021 heat wave in late June and early July, according to an Associated Press report. In King County, around 13 people between the ages of 61 and 97 died of hyperthermia in that period.