30 people and counting likely killed by historic heat wave in Puget Sound area

Jul 2, 2021, 7:15 AM
heat wave...
A person uses an umbrella for shade from the sun while walking near Pike Place Market, Tuesday, June 29, 2021, in Seattle. The unprecedented Northwest U.S. heat wave that slammed Seattle and Portland, Oregon, moved inland Tuesday — prompting an electrical utility in Spokane, Washington, to resume rolling blackouts amid heavy power demand. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Days after the historic heat wave, counties in western Washington are starting to learn the full impact of the deadly hot weather.

Breakdown of records set during Washington’s heat wave

The state reported that 1,648 people were rushed to the emergency room starting last Friday for heat-related illnesses. On Thursday, KIRO 7 TV learned that 30 people just in the Puget Sound area have likely died from heat-related illnesses.

Some cases are still being confirmed, but investigators in each county said the toll of heat-related deaths so far likely includes:

King County: 13 deaths
Pierce County: 7 deaths
Snohomish County: 5 deaths
Thurston County: 4 deaths

One of the deaths is 84-year-old Sallisue Deckebach, who died at her home Monday on the hottest day of the heat wave. Neighbors called her Sally. Bellevue police said when neighbors came by to check on her, they found her inside.

“We looked outside, and there was an ambulance. And knowing the (heat) situation and knowing our neighbor, we were like, that’s really not good,” said Jack Pascho, who lives in Bellevue.

The King County Medical Examiner’s office stated she had some other conditions but died of hyperthermia, which happens when the body gets dangerously overheated.

“For it to happen like that, it was just really unfortunate. You wish it could’ve been better. Maybe her family could’ve heard from her — something like that. It’s really, really tragic,” Pascho said.

Xiao Yang said she saw the police response in the neighborhood after driving to her daughter’s house for the air conditioning.

“I came here to escape the heat, luckily. But I’m so sorry for so many people,” Yang said.

Mark Taylor is a nurse who helps coordinate the emergency response at Harborview Medical Center-UW Medicine.

“The volume of patients that were presented to area hospitals was unbelievable,” Taylor said.

He said they actually stood up their “disaster medical coordination center” to send ambulances to not only just the closest hospital, but also to whichever one had availability. Harborview Medical Center filled up.

“Yes, the beds were full. And we started to use alternative spaces to house patients. Absolutely,” he said. “There was not a facility, a hospital in the community that wouldn’t have experienced a dramatic inflow of patients over those two to three days.”

He said the hospital was working to figure out how to adjust operations to respond even better — in case another historic heat wave hits.

And neighbors in Bellevue said if that happens, they’ll be doing things differently too.

“My neighbors are kind of the same age bracket as Sally, so I think I would be more proactive looking around my neighborhood,” Pascho said. “Maybe we could’ve saved someone.”

The youngest fatality likely caused by the heat was in Thurston County. The coroner said a 39-year-old man was found in his Tumwater apartment, which had no air conditioning.

By Deedee Sun, KIRO 7 News

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30 people and counting likely killed by historic heat wave in Puget Sound area