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Environment

Official death toll from heat wave at 78 in Washington – and it's expected to rise

Preliminary data from the Washington Department of Health shows statewide heat-related deaths this year compared to last.
Washington Department of Health
Preliminary data from the Washington Department of Health shows statewide heat-related deaths this year compared to last.

11:45 a.m.: Updated with new information from the state Department of Health.

The Washington state Department of Health has a preliminary tally of heat-related deaths in the past week. At least 78 people died statewide because of the scorching temperatures that began June 26.  

Last year, there were only seven confirmed heat-related deaths statewide for the entire summer, the state reports. In the seven days from June 26 to July 6, 2021, 78 people in 19 counties died because of the heat – from the most populous areas on the west side of the state to the hottest on the east.

The deadliest day of the heat wave was June 29 – with 33 deaths confirmed statewide on that Monday when temperature spiked to a record 108 degrees in Seattle.  

King County shows the highest number, with 24 deaths during the heat wave. Thirteen were reported in Pierce County, eight in Snohomish County, five in Skagit County and five in Yakima County.

A common cause for these deaths was hyperthermia, or overheating, which can cause organ failure or heat stroke that can damage the brain.

Health officials stress this is preliminary data. More cases are still pending, and some counties might be reporting higher numbers locally.

Epidemiologists expect the statewide count to go up as more heat-related deaths are reported.

In Oregon, 116 deaths are being attributed to the record-setting heat.

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