Sadly, Oregon’s historic heat wave earlier this week was more than record-breaking; it was also deadly — with a statewide death toll of 115 as of Friday, with investigations still underway.
Officials have confirmed hyperthermia (dangerous overheating) caused at least 83 of the deaths, while 32 are pending further investigation. Four deaths included in preliminary counts were determined to have not been related to the heat wave.
The lion’s share of the casualties investigators have linked to the three-day heat wave have been reported in Multnomah, Oregon’s largest and most densely populated county.
But at least 12 heat-related deaths — slightly more than 10% of the state’s total — occurred in Clackamas County, according to updated numbers from the county medical examiner Friday.
Like the victims of the heat wave in general, those whose deaths were linked to excessive heat in Clackamas County were generally older, ranging in age from 55 to two victims who were 79.
The county’s death toll included eight men and four women, according to the Clackamas County medical examiner’s office. ZIP code-level data the state medical examiner released this week suggests that two of the deaths occurred in Milwaukie, one in the Molalla area and one in Wilsonville — none in Canby or Oregon City.
Two deaths were linked to the postal code 97267 — an urban portion of northwestern Clackamas County that includes Oak Grove and Gladstone — while a third was identified in another Gladstone ZIP, 97027.
Nine of the people who died were in their homes which either had no air conditioning or air-conditioners that were not functioning, the county said. One individual was living in their vehicle, which had no air conditioning.
Authorities have not yet shared the names or communities of residence for those who perished, citing the need to contact next of kin. Due to toxicology and other reports and an understanding of the individual’s medical and social history, investigations will not be final for 12 or more weeks.
In other areas, many of those who succumbed to the heat were found alone in their homes, without air-conditioners or fans. Others were elderly and more vulnerable.
Still others were at work, like an immigrant farmworker who was found in a field unresponsive at the end of his shift at Ernst Nursery and Farms in St. Paul this weekend.
No single type of weather event kills more Americans than extreme heat, which is more deadly than hurricanes and floods combined. Heat has twice the death toll of tornadoes and four times the death toll of extreme cold, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
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