6 people died of heat-related causes during King County heat wave

A report says three people died of hyperthermia-related causes and three others drowned during the record-breaking heatwave.

KING COUNTY, Washington – Editor’s Note: The video above about the inequitable impacts caused by heat was posted on July 26.

Health officials said six people died of heat-related illnesses in King County during last week’s heat wave that set all-time records in Seattle.

A report from Public Health – Seattle & King County says three people died of hyperthermia-related causes and three others drowned between July 26 and July 31.

At least 14 possible heat-related deaths were also reported in Oregon during the same heat episode.

The King County Medical Examiner’s Office said additional deaths from the recent heat wave may be identified later, as heat-related casualties may not be confirmed immediately following heat exposure.

Numbers weren’t immediately available in other Washington counties, but KING 5 contacted a number of local health departments.

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Over a three-day period between July 26 and July 28, 51 people were admitted to King County emergency departments with heat-related illnesses. Emergency medical services were called for 14 incidents on Saturday and 12 times on Sunday, according to data provided by health authorities.

The Puget Sound area was under an excessive heat warning from the National Weather Service from July 26 through July 31. Seattle set an all-time record for the longest 90-degree stretch with six consecutive days. That record stood for 77 years until it was broken on Sunday as the heat persisted in the region.

RELATED: Seattle Sets All-Time Record for Longest 90-Degree Peak Stretch

Health officials reported that 100 people died in Washington between June 26 and July 2 during the 2021 heat wave, which saw the highest temperatures on record in most parts of the region and several days of triple-digit highs in the Puget Sound area. Most heat-related deaths have occurred in King and Pierce counties.

57 additional heat-related deaths were reported in Washington from July 3 to August 31, 2021.

The Associated Press reported that about 800 people died in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia during this heat wave in late June and early July 2021.

Officials said the highest number of one-day emergency room visits for heat-related illnesses occurred during the 2021 heated dome event, when 275 people were admitted.

According to authorities, serious heat-related health problems include kidney failure, strokes and heart attacks. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are also risks.

According to health officials, ER visits for heat-related illnesses are classified as those that meet a syndrome definition that includes mention of the terms “hyperthermia,” “sunstroke,” “heat exhaustion,” or related terms. Emergency visits include heat-related illnesses, such as heatstroke.

King County said the heat had inequitable effects on low-income communities and communities of color.

Now the county is working to develop its first-ever Extreme Heat Mitigation Strategy to address the impact of heat inequality.

A heat mapping project in 2020 by King County and the City of Seattle measured the impact of heat waves on different communities. The project found that at the same time and place in the county, temperatures in the Ballard district reached 85 degrees, while Kent reported 96 degrees.

The study found that warmer areas of King County typically have more pavement and hard surfaces that trap heat and amplify temperatures during a heat wave. According to the project, cooler areas have more forest cover, parks and natural landscapes insulting the neighborhood because of the higher temperatures.

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