The first half of this week has been unprecedentedly hot in the Northwest region of the US and western Canada—this is the most intense heatwave to ever hit the region. After an already scorching and record-breaking weekend, with temperatures as high as 112 degrees Fahrenheit in Portland and 108 in Seattle, thermometers crept even higher Monday and Tuesday, sometimes exceeding 30 degrees above the normal daily temperature. Thankfully, most of the heat had passed by Wednesday, as temperatures settle towards the weekend.
The unbearably high temperatures have led to the suspension of pandemic-related capacity limits across Oregon at swimming pools, movie theaters, shopping malls, cooling centers, and public transit to make sure people have access to air conditioning or other places to find refuge from the heat. In some parts of the country that are being hit, air conditioning in homes isn’t common—in Seattle, only 44 percent of homes are air-conditioned.
On top of a low rate of air-conditioned homes and a significant population of people without housing, the uncharacteristically high overnight lows proved deadly. In Oregon alone, 63 people died due to heatwave-related causes—45 of these were due to hyperthermia, according to Reuters. That’s nearly four times as many deaths in just one week than all hyperthermia deaths in the state between 2017 and 2019. British Columbia reported at least 486 sudden deaths over the five day period, as temperatures surged above 120 degrees Fahrenheit in some regions.