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Death toll from Oregon heat wave climbs to 10

A digital temperature sign on Northeast Lombard Street reads 106 degrees.
Anna Lueck
/
OPB
A digital temperature sign on Northeast Lombard Street reads 106 degrees, Portland, Ore., July 9, 2024. After several days of above-average heat, temperatures in Portland reached triple digits on Tuesday. Areas like northeast Lombard, which have comparably low tree cover, often register higher temperatures than other parts of the city.

Ten people in Oregon have died from suspected heat-related illnesses during the heat wave that started last week.

The Oregon state medical examiner said Wednesday afternoon that six people have died of heat-related causes in Multnomah County since July 5, including a man who was taken from Clackamas County to a Portland hospital before he died. In addition, the medical examiner said, Washington, Coos, Klamath and Jackson counties have each seen a death.

Some areas of Southern Oregon saw temperatures soar to 110 degrees this week.

Seven people who died were at least 64 years old. The other two were 33-year-old men, and one was a 27-year-old man.

Several regions broke temperature records, making this one of the most significant heat waves in state history. As of Tuesday, Oregon has tied or broken 285 high-temperature records.

That’s a significant fraction of over 700 temperature records that have been broken across the nation, state climatologist Larry O’Neill told OPB’s Morning Edition. “So Oregon has really kind of been at the epicenter of this heat wave over the last week.”

The Jackson County medical examiner reported an additional death, according to Jefferson Public Radio. Some areas of Southern Oregon saw temperatures soar to 110 F this week.

Seven people who died were at least 64 years old. The other two were 33-year-old men.

Several regions broke temperature records, making this one of the most significant heatwaves in state history. As of Tuesday, Oregon has tied or broken 285 high-temperature records.

That’s a significant fraction of over 700 temperature records that have been broken across the nation, state climatologist Larry O’Neill told OPB’s Morning Edition. “So Oregon has really kind of been at the epicenter of this heat wave over the last week.”

Portland broke its temperature record for July 9 after reaching 104 F. Salem and Eugene also broke records after reaching 106 F and recording their highest number of consecutive days with triple-digit temperatures.

“But fortunately those triple digits are done for now,” National Weather Service meteorologist Noah Alviz said. “We’ll see what happens next month.”

Temperatures in the Portland and Eugene areas will dip into the low 90s the rest of this week, which is still relatively high for the region. It usually sees temperatures in the 80s around this time of year.

While temperatures may be cooling in northwest Oregon, much of eastern and southern Oregon will continue to see triple-digit temperatures through Saturday, according to forecasts.

Alviz said his office has been receiving reports of water rescues as more Oregonians take to the rivers and lakes to cool off. He recommends people take extra precautions, like wearing life jackets. Diving into frigid water can also cause people’s bodies to go into shock and could potentially cause hypothermia.

This record-breaking heat reflects the global trend of hotter and drier summers resulting from climate change. Carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels are the biggest contributors to global warming. Those emissions reached record levels last year, which was the hottest year on record.

O’Neill, the state climatologist, says Oregonians should expect summers to continue getting hotter.

“These heat waves before the 2020s, we didn’t expect them to happen more than once every 10 or 20 years,” he said. “And basically the last three of the last four summers we’ve had them happen. So, this is definitely becoming more and more of a trend because of the changing climate.”

Copyright 2024 Oregon Public Broadcasting

April Ehrlich began freelancing for Jefferson Public Radio in the fall of 2016, and then officially joined the team as its Morning Edition Host and a Jefferson Exchange producer in August 2017.
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