County looks into heat-related deaths

Climate scientists say recent heat wave in Pacific Northwest, which killed at least 100 people, was 'virtually impossible without human-caused climate change'

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The Clark County Medical Examiner’s Office estimates between five and 10 Clark County residents died as a result of last week’s extreme heat. 

“Recent high environmental temperatures undoubtedly have played a role in exacerbating many detrimental health and social conditions throughout our community and have likely contributed to the general increase in the number of deaths in Clark County over the last several days.the ME’s office stated in a new release sent to media on June 30. ““The investigation of heat-related deaths requires a thorough understanding of the circumstances leading up to a person’s death, their medical and social history, an examination of the body, and various laboratory studies (including toxicology) that can take several weeks to months.”

The ME’s office said it will take “several months to determine the full extent the most recent heat wave has had on deaths in our community as the investigations are ongoing and deaths continue to be reported that may be heat-related.”

As of June 30, the county was reporting between five and 10 possible heat-related deaths during the extreme heat wave, which broke high-temperature records in Vancouver and Portland between Friday, June 25 and Monday, June 28. 

Washington state officials have linked at least 40 deaths to the recent heat wave. In Oregon, officials say at least 107 people between the ages of 37 and 97 died from heat-related causes in that state, with more than half the deaths occurring in Multnomah County, which includes the cities of Portland and Gresham.  The Multnomah County Medical Examiner’s Officer said last week that many of those who died were found alone and had no air conditioning or fans to keep them cool as temperatures rose to 116 degrees in Portland on Monday, June 28. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown later said the state’s communities of color and low-income residents made up a  disproportionate share of the state’s heat-related deaths.

An analysis by 27 climate scientists from the World Weather Attribution network showed the recent heat wave in the Pacific Northwest would have been “virtually impossible without human-caused climate change,” and warned that, as climate change continues, heat waves like the one experienced in this area in late June will “become a lot less rare.”