Last week’s intense heat — which hit 112 degree in Mazama and shattered records there for a solid week — contributed to the deaths of four men in Okanogan County, according to Okanogan County Coroner Dave Rodriguez.
All four had pre-existing medical conditions, but the heat added to the stress on their systems, Rodriguez said.
Two of the men lived in Omak, one in Oroville, and one in Tonasket. Their ages were 68, 74, 77 and 81. The deaths were confirmed between June 29 and July 6.
All four men lived alone and were in rooms that were sealed up, with windows closed. One even had windows covered in plastic, Rodriguez said.
One man was sitting in the sun, and another had been sitting in front of a box fan, which acted like a hair dryer in the heat, Rodriguez said. The room temperature at some of the residences exceeded 100 degrees, he said.
Being able to cover windows during the day and open them at night can help keep a room cooler, but many people don’t have the ability to manage that on their own.
Okanogan County Public Health urged people to check on friends and neighbors when the weather is that hot, especially those who are older and most vulnerable, and on individuals with medical conditions that put them at added risk.
That number of preventable deaths demands an intervention, said Rodriguez, who said his role in problem-solving is to alert people to risks. A simple room air conditioner would make a big difference, he said.
Heat broke records
Mazama broke records for a week straight. The week started at 96 degrees on June 26 and soared to a peak of 112 on June 30 — a whopping 22 degrees hotter than normal — before dropping again to 101 on July 2, according to the National Weather Service. In 1971, Mazama hit a record-breaking low of 30 degrees on June 30.
Winthrop also broke records on three of those days, with its highest temperature at 107 on June 29, 19 degrees above normal. But a heat wave in 1924 still holds the record for several of those dates.
Omak hit 117 on June 29. There is no weather station in Twisp.
Although triple-digit temperatures are no longer in the forecast, the hot weather is predicted to continue for the next week.