Heat-Related Deaths Continue to Rise in State After Historic Heatwave


Washington's Department of Health (DOH) has identified 78 likely heat-related deaths in the state resulting from the heat wave that caused temperatures to reach over 100 degrees in many places.

The heat wave is suspected to have killed at least 3 in Thurston County, according to DOH data. Most deaths were concentrated in the state's more populous counties: in King County, 24 people died from the heat and in Pierce county 13 died.

The deaths are a major jump from 2020, when only seven heat-related deaths were reported during the summer.

Heat waves and other extreme weather events are predicted to happen more often and last longer as the climate continues to change.

"This huge jump in mortality due to heat is tragic and something many people thought they'd never see in the Pacific Northwest with its mostly moderate climate," said acting State Health Officer Scott Lindquist in a press release. "But climates are changing, and we see the evidence of that with dramatic weather events, major flooding, historic forest fires, and more."

The most deaths were reported on Tuesday, June 29, when 33 deaths were reported. Between June 25 and July 1, over 2,000 visits were made to local emergency departments throughout the state because of heat-related illness, the DOH reported.

The DOH says those who are at greater risk for heat-related illness, such as the elderly, the very young (4 years old and younger), overweight people and those taking certain medications should stay indoors and drink plenty of fluids when temperatures are high.

All the numbers the DOH has reported are preliminary and could change depending on what coroners and medical examiners determine. The DOH is awaiting determinations on a number of "pending" deaths that could increase the tally.

The DOH is actively tracking the number of heat-related deaths by county.