OLYMPIA — Snohomish County’s death toll from last month’s record-breaking Pacific Northwest heat wave continues to rise, with eight cases now suspected.
Statewide, the state Department of Health reported 78 heat-related deaths Thursday. Deaths can be reported to the state from various sources, including medical examiners, healthcare providers and local health departments.
The Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office previously reported three deaths from the heat. They were all men — ages 51, 75 and 77 — and they died after experiencing heat stroke in their homes. Nicole Daugherty, the medical examiner’s operations manager, said Thursday there were also three more deaths pending on top of the three confirmed. Those likely stem from the heat, but will take several weeks to confirm.
Those three deaths were also all men: a 63-year-old died June 27; a 49-year-old died June 28; and a 45-year-old died June 29. Information on the two other suspected heat deaths the state DOH reported is not currently available. DOH spokesperson Teresa McCallion noted “it’s a huge process” to confirm heat-related deaths.
“It usually takes months and months and we’re trying to do it in days,” McCallion said.
Daugherty said there also are Snohomish County residents still in local hospitals with heat-related illnesses.
The state health agency said Thursday that in comparison, there were just seven heat-related deaths in Washington from mid-June to the end of August 2020. From 2015 to 2020 there were a total of 39 deaths. A majority of the deaths from the late June heat wave were in King and Pierce counties, officials said.
Oregon on Wednesday reported 116 deaths following temperatures that shattered previous all-time records during the three-day heat wave that engulfed Oregon, Washington and British Columbia, Canada.
The heat wave was caused by what meteorologists described as a dome of high pressure over the Northwest and worsened by human-caused climate change, which is making such extreme weather events more likely and more intense.
Seattle, Portland and many other cities broke all-time heat records, with temperatures in some places reaching above 115 degrees Fahrenheit.
Health officials said that the state numbers are preliminary and subject to change, and heat-related deaths by county will be updated weekly online.