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Seven deaths in Oregon blamed on excessive heat

The forecast high temperatures are shown for Tuesday in northwestern Oregon and southwest Washington.
@NWSPortland (National Weather Service)
The forecast high temperatures are shown for Tuesday in northwestern Oregon and southwest Washington.

Five people in Multnomah County and two in southwest Oregon have died from suspected heat-related causes

The extreme triple-digit heat much of Oregon has been experiencing the past few days is expected to pass Wednesday. But even when the triple-digit heat wanes, many parts of the state will still see above average temperatures throughout the week.

There are now seven suspected heat-related deaths from this current heat wave, according to the Oregon State Medical Examiner’s Office. Five of those deaths occurred in Multnomah County. One person died in coastal Coos County of suspected heat-related causes. Another suspected heat-related death was reported Tuesday in Jackson County, according to Jefferson Public Radio.

Of the previously reported deaths in Multnomah County, all were men, including a Clackamas County resident who died in Portland.

This streak of extreme heat began on July 4, dampening many Oregonians’ holiday weekend plans. Since then, nearly every part of the state has experienced heat above 90 degrees. Several areas have hit 100 degrees or higher during this heat wave. The forecast for Tuesday predicted it would be the hottest day with areas along the I-5 corridor hitting triple digits again. It could get up to 105 degrees from Eugene to Portland. Areas ranging from Medford in the south, to the Columbia River Gorge near The Dalles, are expected to experience highs of 110 degrees.

“The good news is we are going to be seeing a marine influence starting to work its way into the area, beginning [Tuesday night],” said National Weather Service meteorologist Colby Neuman. “But it’s still going to be relatively warm. It just will not be as extreme as what we’ve seen the last few days.”

The predicted high for Portland Wednesday is 92 degrees.

Neuman said, on average, July is a hot month. But historically, hot has meant high temperatures hovering in the low to mid 80s. Anything above that is unusual for the state. ”Ninety-degree temperatures are not that commonplace in northwest Oregon,” Neuman said. “We do get them every summer, but this will be one of the more prolonged stretches that we’ve had in recorded history.”

Both Salem and Eugene were set to break records Tuesday for the most consecutive days above 100 degrees — with five straight triple-digit days.

And though the heat is likely to moderate Wednesday, Oregonians living in urban areas should not expect immediate relief from hot daytime temperatures. ”We’re going to probably see more relief starting on Wednesday night. That’s when temperatures are a lot more likely to drop into the upper 50s, maybe low 60s for most urban areas,” said Neuman.

Several Oregon counties focus on unhoused people amid heat wave

For people experiencing homelessness, overbearing heat can be deadly. Many people in this population lack immediate access to air conditioned indoor areas or resources like water to cool them off.

Public health and emergency officials from several Oregon counties said they are focused on making additional shelter and cooling spaces available for unhoused people during extreme weather.

Deschutes County began distributing 500 cooling kits to homeless services organizations in June. Among other things, the kits include water, hydration tablets, cooling packs and Mylar blankets that can be used to create shade. The county also made drinking water available for unhoused people living in camps. ”A lot of people can’t access cooling spaces or for whatever reason they don’t want to leave their stuff, they don’t have transportation,” said Emily Horton, Deschutes County’s public health program manager for emergency preparedness. “We try to remove as many of those barriers as we can.”

Benton County, in the scorching Willamette Valley, has also been providing water, hydration packs and information about cooling shelters to people experiencing homelessness. During this heat wave, the county activated its overflow sheltering protocol and provided hotel rooms to about a dozen people with severe medical conditions.

“The reality is that there are people who are without housing who may have had a recent hospital stay or who are senior citizens and unsheltered,” said April Holland, Benton County’s interim Health Department director. “This is the population that we’re reserving those hotel rooms for.”

Cooling shelters currently operating in Multnomah County, the state’s most populous county, will close starting Wednesday, according to a county press release. Nearly 170 people used one of Multnomah County’s three cooling sites Monday.

The press release also said the Joint Office of Homeless Services supplied more than 87,000 water bottles and other cooling tools to service providers from July 3-8.

Some areas of southern, central, and northeastern Oregon remain under excessive heat warnings through at least Friday.

Officials are urging people to drink plenty of water and stay in air-conditioned spaces if possible. Anyone who needs help finding a cool space can call 211 or visit 211info.org.

Copyright 2024 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Lauren Dake
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