NewsWorldHistoric Northwest Heatwave Linked to Dozens of Deaths and...

Historic Northwest Heatwave Linked to Dozens of Deaths and Hundreds of Emergency Room Visits

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(CNN) – Hundreds of Americans have visited emergency departments or urgent care clinics in the Pacific Northwest since Friday, and as many as 60 deaths have been reported, as an excruciating heat wave broke all temperature records in Oregon, Washington and Canada.

Portland set record temperatures three days in a row, topping 46.6 degrees Celsius on Monday. Seattle reached 42.2 degrees Celsius, a new record. At least two places in Washington reached 47.8 degrees Celsius, which, if confirmed, would equal the state temperature record dating back to 1928.

A city in southwestern Canada recorded a temperature of 47.5 degrees Celsius, the highest ever recorded in the country, and about 20 degrees above normal for this time of year. Scientists have told CNN that the heat wave is a clear sign of the climate crisis, and that similar extreme heat events will occur more frequently in the future.

In Washington, at least 676 people visited emergency departments for heat-related symptoms from Friday to Sunday alone, before peak heat hit the state. Cory Portner, a spokesman for the Washington State Department of Health, said 81 of those cases led to hospital admissions.

King County, which includes Seattle, had 40 emergency department visits for heat-related illnesses on Saturday and 91 on Sunday, according to Gabriel Spitzer, a communications specialist for Seattle and King County Public Health.

«During the past three years, the previous maximum count of a single day of admissions [al departamento de emergencias] for heat-related illnesses it was 9, “Spitzer told CNN in an email.

The Oregon Health Authority reported a total of 506 heat-related visits to emergency departments and urgent care centers over the past four days. At least 251 visits occurred on Monday alone, when temperatures were at their highest.

In the Portland area, the 97 visits to the emergency department and urgent care clinic for heat illness are about the same number of cases they would see throughout the summer, according to the Multnomah County communications director, Julie Sullivan-Springhetti.

“The record heat also broke records for calls for help. Emergency calls, visits to emergency rooms and calls for people and pets reached all-time highs, ”Sullivan-Springhetti said in an email to CNN.

Nearly 600 people went to county cooling centers in the Portland area on Monday. About 50,000 bottles of water, 32,000 electrolyte packs and 14,000 cooling towels were delivered to the homeless, Sullivan-Springhetti said.

Additionally, animal welfare calls were up 330% more than on a typical weekend, many of which were for animals in hot vehicles and animals in distress, he said.

Temperatures are expected to be highs in the 27 and 32 degrees Celsius in Portland and Seattle for the rest of the week. The heat should subside a bit next week, according to CNN Weather’s Jackson Dill, but temperatures will remain warmer than normal.

60 sudden deaths reported in Vancouver

As temperatures rose in Vancouver on Tuesday, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) issued a statement on a “worrying increase in sudden deaths amid the heat wave.”

More than 60 sudden deaths have been reported in the Vancouver metropolitan area amid the heat wave.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have responded to 35 sudden deaths in Surrey, British Columbia, since Monday, media relations agent Sarbjit K. Sangha told CNN. Officers responded to 22 deaths on Monday and 13 more so far Tuesday, Sangha said.

“While the causes of death have yet to be determined in each of these cases, we can confirm that Surrey RCMP is responding to a higher than usual death toll since the onset of extreme weather conditions,” said Sangha.

In the nearby city of Burnaby, police responded to more than 25 sudden death calls in a 24-hour period from Monday, and heat is believed to be a contributing factor to most of the deaths, according to a statement from RCMP.

“We are seeing that this climate can be deadly for vulnerable members of our community, especially the elderly and those with underlying health problems. It is imperative that we check ourselves during this extreme heat, ”said Mike Kalanj of Burnaby RCMP.

Many of those killed were seniors, RCMP said, and police are urging people to monitor their loved ones and neighbors as the heat wave continues, bringing record temperatures to the region.

Carlos Ramos hands out bottles of water and has lunch Monday at a hydration station across from Union Gospel Mission in Seattle.

Many in the region are unprepared for extreme heat

Kate Weinberger, an environmental epidemiologist at the University of British Columbia, previously told CNN that hospitalization records generally only consider medical terms like heat stroke and neglect other potentially heat-related causes of death, such as heart attacks.

“Heat is likely to contribute to many more deaths from causes other than heat stroke, because heat can exacerbate other chronic diseases, such as heart and lung conditions,” Weinberger told CNN. “Given the danger posed by heat, events like the ongoing heat wave in the Pacific Northwest should be taken very seriously.”

Experts told CNN that part of what made this heat wave so dangerous was that the Pacific Northwest is unprepared for such extremes.

Seattle and Portland rank first and third, respectively, among cities with the highest proportion of homes without air conditioning, according to a US Census Bureau survey of 25 major metropolitan areas.

The lack of air conditioning “makes it difficult for many residents to stay home, especially during a pandemic where many are still being asked to telecommute,” said Anthony Derrick, press secretary for Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan. “Additionally, Washington State has not yet fully reopened, which means that many interior spaces are still operating at reduced capacity.”

Derrick said capacity restrictions were relaxed for Seattle-area cooling centers, which many people took advantage of as temperatures rose.

The urban heat island effect exacerbates heat illness problems. Asphalt-heavy areas, buildings, and highways tend to absorb a significant amount of solar energy and emit it as heat. They are much warmer than areas with green spaces (parks, rivers, tree-lined streets) that absorb and emit less solar energy.

A 2019 study found that the hottest areas within city limits were low-income neighborhoods and neighborhoods of color, places that have historically enjoyed the least improvement and investment. These are neighborhoods located along traffic-congested freeways, where you can walk blocks without seeing trees, much less a park.

Meanwhile, wealthier neighborhoods, which have more green spaces, are cooler.

CNN’s Rachel Ramirez, Taylor Ward, Rachel Ramirez, Dave Cera, Jon Passantino, Rebekah Riess, Dave Alsup, Raja Razek, and Monica Garrett contributed to this report.

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