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Image: NASA Earth Observatory/Joshua Stevens, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
by Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer
Hundreds of people have now died as a result of a heatwave that scorched the Pacific Northwest (PNW) this past week. In Oregon, 63 people have died in the last seven days, and British Columbia reported 486 deaths between last Friday and Wednesday alone. As the COVID-19 Delta variant begins making its way through states, hospitals are worried that an influx of heat-related cases will overwhelm their systems.
One thing is for sure: more record-breaking temperatures are on the way, and the nation isn’t prepared.
Why This Matters: Heat domes like the one in the Pacific Northwest are a symptom of drought and rising temperatures. When the ground becomes too dry, it heats more quickly. When a high-pressure system moves in, it traps that heat, creating a “dome” that acts as a pot lid, trapping populated areas in sweltering conditions.
Beating the Heat: Portland broke its all-time heat record twice this past week, and older citizens paid the price.
Forty-five of Oregon’s 63 heat-related deaths occurred in one county and the victims ranged in age from 44 to 97.
The county coroner reported that all of these deaths were due to hyperthermia; only 12 hyperthermia deaths occurred in the county between 2017 and 2019.
At least 20 people have died in Washington state. Steve Mitchell, the medical director of the emergency department at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, said that the influx of heat-related cases reminded him of early 2020.
“It felt very much like what happened in the initial days of trying to deal with the original outbreak [of the virus] at the Life Care Center in Kirkland,” he told the Seattle Times. “We got to the point where facilities were struggling with basic equipment, like ventilators.”
As many feared, the demand for air conditioning and power overwhelmed utilities last week. Avista Utilities in Spokane implemented rolling blackouts to avoid power grid failure and limit blackouts to one hour per household. In addition to energy infrastructure, roads and public transportation have also suffered from the heat; two major public transport systems in Portland ceased operations temporarily due to heat-related complications.
The President isn’t shying away from the reality of the situation.
“The extreme heat we’re seeing in the West is not only a risk amplifier for wildfires, it’s a threat in and of itself,” he said this week. “People are hurting. It’s more dangerous for kids to play outside. Roads are buckling under the heat…We need people to check on their neighbors, especially seniors who may need a helping hand.”
National Climate adviser Gina McCarthy says it’s time to adapt to the “new normal,” but that we can’t stop fighting to save our planet, “we have to adjust to this as best we can, but frankly we have to start thinking about how our future looks.”
by Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer As the Delta variant of COVID-19 sweeps across the country, hospitals and public health officials are once again struggling to cope with the fallout. Simultaneously, extreme heat and wildfires have left the Western U.S. (and currently, Eastern ones too) experiencing dangerous levels of wildfire smoke. Now, a new study has now confirmed what […]
by Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer An investigation by The New York Times has found that in 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.) approved the use of PFAS in fracking despite its concerns of their toxicity. The records, which NYT acquired through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), reveal that the E.P.A.’s scientists raised concern about the “forever chemicals,” saying that they could […]
by Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer In Australia, after years of drought, wildfires, a period of heavy rains have brought back some plant life and millions of mice. As a result, the country’s southern and eastern agricultural regions are now overrun with mice in their crops, barns, and homes. The ongoing infestation even prompted the evacuation of a prison in […]
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