As the temperature in Portland, Ore., soared past 100 degrees last week, Penny Clark’s body temperature rose as well. After sitting inside all day without air conditioning, the 79-year-old was running a fever of 102, and the friend she was staying with called 911.
Mrs. Clark, whose daughter said she had a weak heart, died of hyperthermia in an ambulance on the way to the hospital.
“It just didn’t have to happen,” said Shelley Robertson, her daughter.
At least 118 people died in the record heat wave that engulfed the Pacific Northwest in late June, when Portland and Seattle hit record highs of 116 degrees and 108, respectively. Lytton, a village in British Columbia, reached 121 degrees. A wildfire destroyed most of its homes, and at least two people died.
Local governments opened cooling centers and asked apartment managers to check on residents who might be at risk. Still, the heat strained the healthcare system in a part of the country unaccustomed to extreme temperatures.