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caption: A patient suffering from heat exhaustion and dehydration receives an intravenous drip of saline solution in the emergency room of UW Medical Center – Northwest in Seattle on July 27. The name on her wristband has been digitally obscured.
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A patient suffering from heat exhaustion and dehydration receives an intravenous drip of saline solution in the emergency room of UW Medical Center – Northwest in Seattle on July 27. The name on her wristband has been digitally obscured.
Credit: KUOW Photo/John Ryan

Washington heat wave kills 10. Emergency rooms treat 540 heat victims

Medical officials now believe excessive heat has killed at least 10 people in Washington state since July 25.

That figure is based on preliminary reports from county coroners and the Washington Department of Health.

State officials didn’t have the location of all the deaths, but we know that at least three people died in King County, apparently of heat-related causes: two men in Seattle, ages 64 and 77, and a 65-year-old man in Issaquah.

Heat is also being blamed for deaths in Benton, Chelan, Okanagan, and Snohomish counties, according to those counties’ coroners:

• An 88-year-old resident of a Wenatchee assisted-living facility went outside and fell on July 25. “No one found her for a while,” Chelan County Coroner Wayne Harris said in an email.

• A 70-year-old man died Sunday at his home in Lake Stevens.

• An 80-year-old woman who had emphysema and was living in her car died Monday in Omak.

• A 38-year-old homeless man in Richland collapsed and died around 4 p.m. Monday, as the temperature there hit 96.

The tally of heat-related deaths does not count three people who have drowned in King County since Thursday. Drowning accidents often increase during hot weather.

Cool air returned to Western Washington on Monday, but high heat remained in much of Eastern Washington.

According to the National Weather Service, temperatures peaked at 104 in Omak on Monday and 100 in Richland.

Washington Department of Health officials say the heat has sent 544 people to emergency rooms since last Monday, including 224 emergency patients in Eastern Washington and 320 in Western Washington.

The last week of July brought the longest hot stretch on record for the Seattle area, with six days straight of 90-degree temperatures.

The Oregon State Medical Examiner’s Office on Monday put the total number of suspected hyperthermia deaths in Oregon at 14, according to the Associated Press.

Temperatures in this heat wave didn’t approach those seen in June 2021. That month’s record-smashing heat wave was the deadliest weather-related disaster in Washington history, killing an estimated 439 people in the state.

The regionwide 2021 heat dome killed an estimated 1,200 people in British Columbia, Oregon, and Washington, according to analyses of excess death statistics by the British Columbia Coroners Service, KUOW, and the New York Times.

Health-care experts say such deaths are preventable, especially with better support systems for the most vulnerable people, including the very old, the very young, and people who work or live outdoors.

Climate scientists say ending pollution from fossil fuels can keep heat waves like this from becoming more frequent and more intense.