Heat wave cripples Pacific Northwest as over 230 people die in Canada

Heat wave cripples Pacific Northwest as over 230 people die in Canada

June 30, 2021

Heat dome cripples the Pacific Northwest: Dozens die in Canada, 220K face blackouts in Oregon and Washington and devastating wildfire burns through northern California as temperatures hit 121F

  • In British Columbia, there were at least 233 deaths reported from Friday through Monday – with dozens believed to be related to heat
  • The province’s coroner’s service typically gets around 130 death reports over a four-day period 
  • Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe said that ‘this number will increase as data continues to be updated’
  • Coroners are trying to determine the cause and manner of deaths and if the incredible heat may have contributed to them
  • Officials said a dozen deaths in Washington and Oregon may be tied to the intense heat that began late last week 
  • Firefighters in Northern California were also working to battle a lightening-caused ‘Lava Fire’ – the smoke from which could help lower the heat
  • Canadian officials have called the heat wave an ‘unprecedented time’ 

A historic heat wave continues to cripple the Pacific Northwest as more than 230 people died in four days in Canada and 220,000 people face blackouts in Oregon and Washington as temperatures surpass 121 degrees. 

Firefighters in Northern California were also working to battle a lightening-caused ‘Lava Fire’ – the smoke from which could help lower the heat in the region, experts said.  

Canada set a record all-time high temperature Tuesday in the town of Lytton, British Columbia, for the third day in a row, its weather service said, with temperatures rocketing to 121F (49.5C) in Lytton, BC.   

Officials in the country have called the heat wave an ‘unprecedented time’ and it has been suspected that the extreme heat has contributed to the staggering number of deaths in British Columbia since Friday. 

‘Since the onset of the heat wave late last week, the BC Coroners Service has experienced a significant increase in deaths reported where it is suspected that extreme heat has been contributory,’ Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe said in a statement. 

Lapointe said that the coroner’s service typically gets around 130 death reports over a four-day period but there were at least 233 deaths reported from Friday through Monday – more than 100 deaths above normal.

There have also been 65 deaths alone in Vancouver since Friday that have been directly linked to the weather, with coroners estimating many more fatalities. 

MAPLE RIDGE, BRITISH COLUMBIA: Beachgoers sit in the water at Alouette Lake to cool off during the scorching weather of a heatwave on Monday

MAPLE RIDGE, BRITISH COLUMBIA: People headed to Alouette Lake to cool off during the scorching weather of a heatwave

CHESTERMERE, ALBERTA: People are seen trying to beat the heat with umbrellas and tents

CHESTERMERE, ALBERTA: People try to beat the heat at a beach on Tuesday

The sweltering temperatures are being caused by a heat dome of static high-pressure hot air which traps the heat in one location

The wild temperatures are stretching from the US west coast up to Canada where records have now been broken for three days in a row

The top coroner said that ‘this number will increase as data continues to be updated’ and that coroners are now working to determine the cause and manner of deaths and if the incredible heat may have contributed to them. 

‘Environmental heat exposure can lead to severe or fatal results, particularly in older people, infants and young children and those with chronic illnesses,’ the statement added. 

Vancouver police said in a statement to CNN that cops responded to more than 65 sudden deaths since the heat wave began on Friday. 

‘Today alone, officers had responded to 20 sudden deaths as of 1:45 p.m., with more than a dozen others waiting for police to be dispatched,’ the department said in the statement.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police told the outlet that many of those who have died have been senior citizens.

‘We are in the midst of the hottest week British Columbians have ever experienced, and there are consequences to that, disastrous consequences for families and for communities,’ British Columbia Premier John Horgan told a news conference.

‘How we get through this extraordinary time is by hanging together,’ he said.

He urged ‘checking up on those people we know might be at risk, making sure we have cold compresses in the fridge or we’re staying in the coolest part of our homes, and making sure that we’re taking steps to get through this heat wave.’

On Monday, temperatures in Lytton, British Columbia reached 117.5 degrees marking the hottest temperature ever recorded in Canada. That temperature was around 48 degrees above what’s normal for Canada in late June. 

The temperature in Lytton, which is about 155 miles east of Vancouver, reached 121 on Tuesday, according to the country’s weather service, Environment Canada.

SPOKANE, WASHINGTON: Firefighter Sean Condon, left, and Lt. Gabe Mills check on the welfare of a man in Mission Park as temperature reach over 100 degrees on Tuesday

The temperature in Lytton, which is about 155 miles east of Vancouver, reached 121 on Tuesday, according to the country’s weather service

SPOKANE, WASHINGTON: Jordan MacGregor wades into the Little Spokane River and casts his fly rod as the afternoon sun sets on Monday

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON: Isis Macadaeg, 7, plays in a spray park at Jefferson Park during a heat wave on Sunday

RATHDRUM, IDAHO: ‘We just needed to take a break,’ says Robert Peluso of Blanchard, as he and his dog Bailey cool off in the creek at Rathdrum’s City Park on Tuesday

Temperatures hit record highs across the Pacific North West on Monday after a heat wave swept across the region over the weekend and a ‘heat dome’ trapped the hot air in place

According to CNN, temperature readings in downtown Vancouver were 98.6 degrees on Saturday, 99.5 on Sunday and 101.5 on Monday.

‘Vancouver has never experienced heat like this, and sadly dozens of people are dying because of it,’ police sergeant Steve Addison said.

Other local municipalities in Canada have said they too have responded to many sudden death calls, but have yet to release tolls. 

Officials said a dozen deaths in Washington and Oregon may be tied to the intense heat that began late last week. The rest of the United States is also facing unprecedented heat waves, with record temperatures recorded in New England.

In Washington, the King County Medical Examiner’s office said two people died due to hyperthermia, meaning their bodies had became dangerously overheated. The Seattle Times reported they were a 65-year-old Seattle woman and a 68-year-old woman from Enumclaw, Washington.

SALEM, OREGON: People shared screenshots of their weather apps to show just how hot their home city was 

PORTLAND, OREGON: People flocked to the Oregon Convention Center’s makeshift cooling station in Portland when the temperature reached 117F

PORTLAND, OREGON: A woman writes on a notebook as people rest at the Oregon Convention Center cooling station in Oregon, Portland on Monday

PORTLAND, OREGON: A woman brought her dog to the Oregon Convention Center’s cooling station as temperatures hit 115F

PORTLAND, OREGON: This man looked fed-up with the heat, and occupied himself by watching his phone at a cooling center

PORTLAND, OREGON: Friends and their pets stayed cool at the Oregon Convention Center, with Portland breaking temperature records for the third day in a row  on Monday

PORTLAND, OREGON: People rest at the Oregon Convention Center cooling station in Portland on Monday

And the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office on Tuesday told the Daily Herald in Everett, Washington, that three men – ages 51, 75 and 77 – died after experiencing heat stroke in their homes. They were from Everett, Granite Falls and Marysville in Washington.

The heat may have also claimed the life of a worker on a nursery in Oregon, the state’s worker safety agency, known as Oregon OSHA, said on Tuesday.

The man who died was from Guatemala and had apparently arrived in the United States only a few months ago, said Andres Pablo Lucas, owner of Brother Farm Labor Contractor that provided workers for the nursery, including the man who died.

The man, whose name was not disclosed, died at Ernst Nursery and Farms, a wholesale supplier in St. Paul, 20 miles (32 kilometers) north of Salem, on Saturday amid sweltering temperatures. An Oregon OSHA database listed the death as heat-related.

‘The employee was working on a crew moving irrigation lines. At the end of the shift he was found unresponsive in the field,’ said agency spokesman Aaron Corvin.

Speaking in Spanish, Pablo Lucas said when workers gathered together shortly after noon on Saturday, they noticed one of them was missing. They began searching and found his body. Pablo Lucas said he didn´t remember the man´s name.

Pablo Lucas said the laborers often have the option to start working near sunrise when it is cooler and can stop around midday, but some want to stay regardless of the heat.

‘The people want to work, to fight to succeed,’ he said. ‘For that reason, they stay.’

The heat wave has forced schools and COVID-19 vaccination centers to close in the Vancouver area, while officials set up temporary water fountains and misting stations on street corners.

Stores quickly sold out of portable air conditioners and fans, so several people without cooling at home told AFP they hunkered down in their air conditioned cars or underground parking garages at night.  

BRENTWOOD, TENNESSEE: Avery Williams, right, 20, who was visiting Spokane from Brentwood, TN, wipes his face down and drinks water with his sister Camille, 16, lower left, as they escape the heat with their mother Heather Brentwood, not pictured, on Tuesday

ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND: People play on the beach and in the Chesapeake Bay as they try to escape the heat at Sandy Point State Park on Tuesday

About 9,300 Avista Utilities customers in Spokane lost power on Monday and the company said more planned blackouts began on Tuesday afternoon in the city of about 220,000 people.

‘We try to limit outages to one hour per customer,’ said Heather Rosentrater, an Avista vice president for energy delivery.

She said about 2,400 customers were without power as of shortly after 2 p.m. Tuesday, mostly on the north side of the city, and those customers had been alerted about the planned outage. About 21,000 customers were warned Tuesday morning that they might experience an outage, she said.

Avista had to implement deliberate blackouts on Monday because ‘the electric system experienced a new peak demand, and the strain of the high temperatures impacted the system in a way that required us to proactively turn off power for some customers,’ said company president and chief executive Dennis Vermillion. 

‘This happened faster than anticipated.’

Rosentrater said the outages were a distribution problem, and did not stem from a lack of electricity in the system

Residents in parts of the United States and Canada have been flocking to cooling stations set up in cities like Portland and air conditioning units and ice have been flying off the shelves across the region.

Fireworks have also been banned across multiple Oregon counties ahead of the July 4 weekend, amid fears they could trigger devastating wildfires.

The historically scorching temperatures are the result of a high-pressure jet stream known as a ‘heat dome,’ which is essentially trapping the hot weather in place. 

CHICAGO: Kids play on a water fountain in downtown as they try to escape the heat on Tuesday

NEW YORK: People cool off in a public swimming pool on Tuesday in the Astoria neighborhood of New York City. The Big Apple is under a heat advisory with temperatures in the nineties but with humidity making it feel much hotter

NEW YORK: A woman lays in the Sheep Meadow in Central Park in New York on Tuesday as New Yorkers brace for heat and humidity

WASHINGTON D.C.: Young girls splash through a waterfall at a park on Tuesday as a heatwave moves over much of the United States

WASHINGTON D.C.: People cool off in the fountains at the World War II Memorial on the National Mall on Tuesday. Temperatures in D.C. will climb into the mid 90s on Tuesday and Wednesday, with the heat index near 100

WASHINGTON D.C.: People put their feet in the fountains at the World War II Memorial on the National Mall on Tuesday

WASHINGTON D.C.: Boy Scouts cool off in the shade on the National Mall on Tuesday

BOSTON: Young people splash in water as they cool off in the Boston Common Frog Pond on Tuesday. New England is dealing with hot weather conditions Tuesday as temperatures climbed into the 90s

NEW BEDFORD, MASACHUSSETTS: Elijah Garcia, 7, takes shelter from the sweltering heat, by playing at the sprinkler station at Ben Rose Park on Tuesday

According to CBS News, the ‘heat dome’ phenomenon is such a rare occurrence that it may only happen once in 1,000 years. And it comes less than two weeks after another historic heat wave wreaked havoc on the U.S. Intermountain West, Desert Southwest and California with hundreds of record highs.

‘It’s a desert heat – very dry and hot,’ David Phillips, a senior climatologist for Environment Canada, told AFP. The ‘heat dome’ poses lethal health concerns, Phillips said, adding that the last major heat wave in Canada left nearly 70 people dead in 2018.

‘And it’s not just a one-day wonder. It’s a seven-day kind of thing,’ he said. ‘We are the second coldest country in the world and the snowiest. We often see cold snaps and blizzards but not often do we talk about hot weather like this. Dubai would be cooler than what we’re seeing now.’

Temperatures will begin to cool across much of the Pacific Northwest from Tuesday, to cooler 80F and 90F weather. That is still well above the 60F-70F temperatures the famously wet and lush region is used to seeing at this time of year.

Environment Canada has issued alerts for British Columbia, Alberta, and parts of Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Yukon and the Northwest Territories, saying the ‘prolonged, dangerous and historic heat wave will persist through this week.’

The U.S. National Weather Service issued a similar warning, urging people to ‘stay in air-conditioned buildings, avoid strenuous outdoor activities, drink plenty of water, and check on family members/neighbors.’

The scorching heat stretching from the Oregon to Canada’s Arctic territories has been blamed on a high-pressure ridge trapping warm air in the region. 

However, climate change is causing record-setting temperatures to become more frequent. Globally, the decade to 2019 was the hottest recorded, and the five hottest years have all occurred within the last five years.

A study published in the academic journal Science Advances in 2018 found connections between extreme summer weather and a fundamental change in how the jet stream behaves because of human-caused climate change. 

‘The analysis we have presented here indicates that anthropogenic warming will likely lead to future increases in these events under business-as-usual burning of fossil fuels, keeping in mind our assumption that the historically defined fingerprint remains valid in the future climate,’ the study reads.

The National Climate Assessment, a scientific study by 13 U.S. federal agencies, found in a 2018 report that heat waves grew from two to six annually since the 1960s while heat waves have grown 45 days longer, as noted by The New York Times. 

Temperatures in the U.S. cities of Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington reached levels not seen since record-keeping began in the 1940s: 115 degrees Fahrenheit in Portland and 108 in Seattle Monday, according to the National Weather Service.

Cities across the western United States and Canada opened emergency cooling centers and outreach workers handed out bottles of water and hats.

In Eugene in Oregon, organizers were forced to adjust the final day of the U.S. Olympic track and field trials, moving afternoon events to the evening.

WEED, CALIFORNIA: A bulldozer operator works on a fire line as vegetation burns nearby at the Lava Fire on Monday north of Weed

WEED, CALIFORNIA: Flames from the Lava Fire burn along a ridge near U.S. Highway 97 and Big Springs Road north of Weed on Monday

SISKIYOU COUNTY, CALIFORNIA: Smoke from the Lava Fire billows over Mount Shasta

SISKIYOU COUNTY, CALIFORNIA: Smoke from the Lava Fire billows over Mount Shasta

WEED. CALIFORNIA: With Mount Shasta in the background, a firefighter cools down hot spots on Monday

The extreme heat, combined with intense drought, also created the perfect conditions for fires to break out near the California-Oregon border.

The lightning-caused Lava Fire, burning west of Mount Shasta, had spread over 13,300 acres of ‘extremely dry vegetation,’ the Washington Post reported. The fire was only 20 percent contained by Tuesday morning.

The blaze came as the nearby weather station, Mount Shasta City, noted record temperatures of 101 degrees on Monday, National Weather Service meteorologist Mike Petrucelli told the outlet.

The fire rapidly grew through Monday afternoon as crews continued to battle the blaze through Tuesday. The fire threatened homes near the town of Weed and forced the evacuation of at least 8,000 residents, The Los Angeles Times reported.

According to the Washington Post, ‘smoke from the Lava Fire and cloud cover from monsoonal thunderstorms could help to dampen the heat this week.’

‘Effectively, the price for slightly cooler temperatures late next week could come at the cost of deteriorated air quality, or the increased chances for lightning and all the fire concerns that come along with it,’ the National Weather Service office in Medford wrote Monday in a forecast discussion.

The inferno was one of 48 large fires in 12 states on Tuesday, the Washington Post noted. There have been a whopping 30,414 fires so far this year marking the most fires by late June since 2011.

The American West continues to face a historic drought running the risk of wildfires burning through exceptionally dry vegetation.

Earlier this year, Lake Oroville, a reservoir formed by the Oroville Dam impounding the Feather River in northern California, was seen with a dry and cracked riverbed – a sobering reminder of the massive drought that ran from 2012 to 2016.

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