PORTLAND — Authorities on Thursday reported the first death and a possible second linked to a Pacific Northwest heat wave even as days of record, triple-digit temperatures began to moderate.
Washington's King County Medical Examiner's office said Thursday the victim was Allen J. Paul, 66, of Seattle. He also suffered from heart disease and health officer Dr. David Flemming said such chronic ailments put additional stress on people.
A man in his 50s died Wednesday at St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma, Wash., of a heat-related illness, said Franciscan Health System spokesman Gale Robinette. The Pierce County Medical Examiners office was still investigating the death on Thursday.
He was the hospital's only heat-related patient Wednesday, but five people were brought to the hospital because of the heat on Tuesday and three more on Thursday but nothing was life threatening, he said.
State Health Department spokesman Donn Moyer said Thursday afternoon he hadn't been notified of any other heat-related deaths in Washington. He said he would only hear of heat-related deaths if a county medical examiner determined heat was a factor.
Oregon Heath and Science University has seen a number of cases of people with mild dehydration and heat stroke over the past couple days, said Dr. Amy Marr, who works in the emergency department, though she didn't have an exact count. Those working outside and the elderly are particularly vulnerable. Marr expects more cases to crop up over the next few days.
Though temperatures around the region haven't reached as high as they did earlier in the week, Thursday is still uncomfortably warm.
Portland peaked at 96 degrees — a full 10 degrees shy of Wednesday's high. Seattle settled at 96 — a record for the day — after it bested its all-time high of 100 by three degrees Wednesday.
"It's still going to be pretty hot inland through the Willamette Valley," said Tiffani Brown, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service. "Not as hot as it has been, but still pretty unlivable, really."
Thermostats will continue to drop, leveling off near 85 by the beginning of next week in Portland and the mid- to high-70s in Seattle, Brown said.
In Portland, Becky Leonard was happy for the cooldown, however slight.
"It feels very refreshing," she said. Refreshing, of course, being relative — she was still sweating.
Leonard and Damien Gill own and run a food cart along Southwest Third Avenue in Portland. For the past couple days they've been closing up at 3 p.m., about three hours early, she said. "The hottest part of the day is at 6 p.m. We didn't want to be here at all.
"It's sort of like ... Ya' know when you park your car in the sun?"
Still, she and Gill are rolling with the heat; they changed up the menu a bit. New to the dessert board: ice cream sandwiches. Key lime pie is selling the best.
"It's a new flavor we just got," Leonard said. "We're super pumped about it."
In Olympia, Wash. a construction crew worked on a new credit union office despite the weather.
The previous day's record triple-digit temperatures shut down the job site at noon, said Frank Krieger, an assistant superintendent.
"Your brain kind of cooks underneath a hardhat," he said.
Thursday's heat — about 83 degrees in the early afternoon — was mild by comparison, even for a guy dressed in full work clothes.
"And today's a cool breeze," he said. "Big difference."