3 in county died from heat stroke, and danger still looms

The hottest day is over, but forecasters say temperatures are expected to remain above normal.

EVERETT — After a brutal weekend of record heat, the weather forecast shows the mercury will “only” reach the mid- to high 80s throughout the next week. Nights will be cooler than they have been, going down into the 60s in most places.

But officials are asking people to continue to exercise caution because the high temperatures can still be dangerous, and sometimes fatal.

The Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office on Tuesday confirmed three weather-related deaths. They were all men — ages 51, 75 and 77 — and they died after experiencing heat stroke in their homes. They were from Everett, Granite Falls and Marysville.

The warm weather also made search-and-rescue teams busy. Since Friday, they have responded to overdue hikers, overturned kayakers, trapped partiers, lost adventurers and one sleeping rafter.

On Sunday, a 58-year-old woman jumped in the Stillaguamish River without a life jacket and was later found dead.

Then on Monday, rescuers recovered the body of a 4-year-old boy from the Skykomish River.

The rivers have been running cold and high because of rapid snowmelt, making popular swimming holes like Eagle Falls particularly troublesome. Sheriff’s spokesperson Courtney O’Keefe advised people to find alternatives if possible. When near or on the water, she said, use a buddy system, monitor children and “absolutely make sure you’re wearing a life jacket.”

A looming threat

No precipitation is in sight, and the region hasn’t seen measurable rain in two weeks.

With the 4th of July coming up, it has some people worried.

At a news conference on Tuesday, Marysville Fire spokesperson Christie Veley called on people to help prevent fires.

Don’t throw that cigarette butt out the window. Avoid parking on dry grass and take off any chains from your vehicle. And wait until it cools down before mowing the lawn or using a weed burner.

“One little spark is all it takes to start a big fire,” Veley said.

An outdoor burn ban was put into effect throughout Snohomish County last week. Under the ban, recreational fires are still allowed but should be monitored, and there should be a water source nearby.

“Can we all agree that it’s too hot to be lighting anything on fire?” quipped Hilary Franz, Washington’s commissioner of public lands, in a tweet.

For those who saw a haze settle over the region, there’s good news and bad news.

The good news first: It wasn’t from wildfire smoke.

The bad news: It was the product of man-made and natural pollutants trapped in place by a heat dome pushing air downward, according to a blog post by the state Department of Ecology.

An air quality alert was put into effect as fine particle pollution monitors showed air in some places to be unhealthy for sensitive groups. That alert was removed as things cleared up Tuesday.

A warming world

The June heatwave was unlike anything Western Washington has seen in modern history.

Events like it may happen again, thanks to climate change.

Tom Di Liberto, a climate scientist with NOAA’s Climate Program Office, wrote that the recent heatwaves throughout the western United States could be part of a larger trend.

According to the Climate Science Special Report, the number of heat waves has increased since the 1960s, and they’ve become longer. Greenhouse gas emissions are the likely culprit.

“Events like this heatwave might be rare now, but they will become more common by the end of the century,” Di Liberto wrote.

Gov. Jay Inslee, who based his 2020 presidential candidacy on climate change, took the opportunity to use his bully pulpit, appearing on CNN and MSNBC, and writing an op-ed in The Seattle Times.

“We cannot just turn up the AC,” he wrote on Twitter, “we have to turn up our efforts to fight the threat that is now intruding on our lives — climate change.”

For this particular heatwave, concerns are still immediate. People should be careful when going outdoors, National Weather Service meteorologist Matthew Cullen said. He offered some advice as they plan their holiday weekend:

Drink water. Find shade. Wear sunscreen.

Stay cool, however you can.

Because it’s not over.

Reporters Joseph Thompson, Caleb Hutton and Ellen Dennis contributed to this story.

Zachariah Bryan: 425-339-3431; zbryan@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @zachariahtb.

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