US heat wave: Millions to endure oppressive heat as temperatures bake the Pacific Northwest and South

US heat wave: Millions to endure oppressive heat as temperatures bake the Pacific Northwest and South

More than 30 million people in the US were under various heat alerts early Thursday.

“The extreme heat is unfortunately expected to stay until the weekend, with temperatures in some places still running over 20 degrees above average. This heat could break records in the Pacific Northwest,” CNN meteorologist Robert Shackelford said.

Parts of Washington state and Oregon along with Texas, Oklahoma and the Carolinas are expected to experience temperatures climbing into the 90s and triple-digits in the coming days.

“The heat will continue to be the story especially over the Pacific Northwest where afternoon temperatures could exceed 110 degrees at the hottest locations in the interior section on Thursday and Friday,” the Weather Prediction Center wrote. “Nights will be abnormally warm as well with record high minimum temperatures possible.”

With the Seattle and Portland metro areas set to see heat in the mid and upper 90s Thursday and Friday, Oregon’s governor has declared a state of emergency.

“With many parts of Oregon facing a high heat wave, it is critical that every level of government has the resources they need to help keep Oregonians safe and healthy,” Gov. Kate Brown said in a news release.

The extreme heat gripping parts of the country in recent weeks has had devastating consequences, including heat-related deaths and the aggravation of relentless wildfires in some areas.

There are two suspected heat-related deaths in Oregon as of Wednesday, the state’s medical examiner’s office told CNN in an email. The agency said the cause of the deaths is preliminary and final confirmation may take several months.

Both Oregon and Washington state have seen an uptick in heat-related emergency room visits this week as the heat wave intensified.

Oregon recorded 32 heat-related illness visits Monday throughout the state — compared with the usual range of 3 to 5 daily, according to Jonathan Modie, lead communications officer for the Oregon Health Authority’s Public Health Division.

Heat-related EMS calls also increased in Oregon, with first-responders receiving 12 calls Monday, compared with five a day prior, Modie added.

Similarly in Washington, state health department data shows two days of “increasing emergency department visits for heat-related illnesses in both Eastern and Western Washington,” spokesperson Jess Nelson said.

Heat has also claimed lives in other parts of the country as temperatures in some regions felt as high as 100 degrees last week, driven by 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. They both had underlying health issues, officials said.

In Allentown, Pennsylvania, a 73-year-old man was found dead last Thursday in a room without air conditioning, according to a medical examiner. His cause of death was heat-related and he had several underlying medical conditions, the Lehigh County coroner told CNN. The heat index in Allentown that day topped out at 96 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.

In Dallas, a 66-year-old woman who also had underlying health conditions became the county’s first heat-related death of the year, Dallas County health officials announced last week.

And a 22-year-old hiker died due to possible dehydration and exposure after running out of water in a South Dakota national park last week, officials said.

Gabe DeBay, a medical services officer with the Shoreline Fire Department, buys lemonade from Kaellan Robberts and Aven Josephy on Tuesday in Shoreline, Washington.

Extreme heat fuels wildfires

As excessively high temperatures continue, firefighters in some areas are battling growing wildfires while also dealing with the sweltering conditions.

A wildfire in Woodward County, Oklahoma, swelled to 18,000 acres amid scorching temperatures, according to Matt Lehenbauer, the county’s emergency management director.

The fire, burning northeast of the town of Mooreland in central Oklahoma, has prompted off-and-on evacuations as weather conditions fluctuate.

California's Oak Fire destroys at least 42 structures as it burns more than 18,000 acres near Yosemite National Park

“This area of ​​flat plains plus the canyon area makes it treacherous for firefighters,” Lehenbauer told CNN Wednesday.

Two firefighters working the fire were hospitalized for heat illness and others were treated at the scene, Lehenbauer said. “The heat exhaustion issue is the biggest problem,” he added.

There is rain in the forecast, which could provide some relief, Lehenbauer noted. “Rain is really the only hope we have to handle this fire,” he said.

Meanwhile, the massive Oak Fire raging near Yosemite National Park in California has burned 18,824 acres with 36% containment as of Wednesday evening after it was sparked Friday, according to Cal Fire. The flames have destroyed 100 structures in Mariposa County, fire officials said.

CNN’s Samantha Beech, Amanda Musa, Paradise Afshar, Jennifer Henderson, Andy Rose, Augie Martin, Taylor Romine and Brad Parks contributed to this report.

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