More than 30 million people in the United States were exposed to various temperature alerts early Thursday.
Robert Shackleford, a meteorologist with CNN, said: “The extreme heat is unfortunately expected to continue into the weekend, with temperatures in some places still over 20 degrees above average. This heat could break records in the Northwest. Pacific”.
Parts of Washington state and Oregon along with Texas, Oklahoma and the Carolinas are expected to see temperatures soar into the 90s and triple digits in the coming days.
With the Seattle and Portland metro areas seeing heat in the mid-1990s and hottest Thursday and Friday, the Oregon governor declared a state of emergency.
The intense heat that has engulfed parts of the country in recent weeks has had severe consequences, including heat-related deaths and an exacerbation of relentless wildfires in some areas.
The state medical examiner’s office told CNN in an email that there are two suspected heat-related deaths in Oregon as of Wednesday. The agency said the cause of the deaths was preliminary and that final confirmation could take several months.
Oregon and Washington both saw a slight increase in heat-related emergency room visits this week as the heat wave intensified.
Oregon recorded 32 visits for heat-related illness Monday across the state — compared to the usual range of 3 to 5 per day, according to Jonathan Moody, the chief communications officer for the Oregon Health Authority’s division of public health.
Modi added that heat-related EMS calls also increased in Oregon, where first responders received 12 calls on Monday, compared to five the day before.
Similarly in Washington, state Department of Health data shows two days of “increased emergency department visits for heat-related illnesses in both eastern and western Washington,” said Department of Health spokesperson Jess Nelson.
The heat also claimed lives in other parts of the country with temperatures in some areas reaching 100 degrees last week, spurred by the stifling humidity.
In New York City, at least two people have died from heat exposure since Saturday, according to the city’s medical examiner’s office. Officials said both had underlying health problems.
In Allentown, Pennsylvania, a 73-year-old man was found dead last Thursday in a room without air conditioning, according to a medical examination. The Lehigh County coroner told CNN that the cause of his death was heat-related and he had several underlying medical conditions. The heat index in Allentown that day reached 96 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.
A 22-year-old parker has died from possible drought and exposure after South Dakota National Park ran out of water last week, officials said.
Extreme heat fuels wildfires
As temperatures continue to rise excessively, firefighters in some areas are battling increasing bushfires while also dealing with harsh conditions.
A wildfire in Woodward County, Oklahoma, has swelled to 18,000 acres amid scorching temperatures, according to Matt Linbauer, director of the county’s emergency management.
The fire, which broke out in the northeastern town of Moreland, in central Oklahoma, caused intermittent evacuations as the weather fluctuated.
“This area of the flat plains as well as the valley area make the firefighters treacherous,” Linbauer told CNN on Wednesday.
Lehenbauer said two firefighters working on the blaze were taken to hospital with freezing disease, while others were treated at the scene. “The problem of heat exhaustion is the biggest problem,” he added.
Lehenbauer noted that there is rain in the forecast, which could provide some relief. “The rain is really the only hope we have for dealing with this fire,” he said.
Samantha Petsch, Amanda Moses, Paradise Afshar, Jennifer Henderson, Andy Rose, Augie Martin, Taylor Romain, and Brad Parks contributed to this report.
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