That’s not an exaggeration. Heat was considered a factor in the death of Allen J. Paul, 66, whose cause of death was listed as hypertensive and atherosclerotic heart disease by the King County Medical Examiner. The Seattle man’s death was ruled accidental.
At the time, Dr. Charissa Fotinos, then the medical director at Public Health-Seattle and King County, told SeattlePI it was the first heat-related death in King County that she could recall. She also said people with underlying conditions or sensitivity, such as children or older populations, are particularly vulnerable to heat.
Temperatures at Sea-Tac Airport, where the official weather records for the area are kept, reached 103 degrees that day, though higher temperatures of up to 105 degrees were recorded elsewhere, including the National Weather Service’s office in Seattle. It was one of only three times Seattle reached triple digits on records dating back to 1894 — the other two times were July 20, 1994 and July 16, 1941, each with 100-degree temperatures.
In 1941, the first time Seattle reached 100 degrees, six people were taken to hospitals after collapsing from the heat. A Washington Athletic Club bus boy was injured after he hit his head on a table while falling.
Public health officials recommend staying out of direct sunlight and avoiding alcohol and caffiene in extreme heat conditions. It’s also best to seek out air-conditioned spaces when possible, like movie theaters, shopping malls or libraries, to keep cool. King County may also open cooling centers in extreme heat conditions.
The 103 degrees felt 10 years ago followed a 97-degree July 28, which ties the record highest temperature recorded for that day.
The low that day only reached 71 degrees, which was the warmest night on record and the first time in Seattle history that temperatures did not dip below 70 degrees.
The strain left thousands without power throughout Western Washington, according to KOMO News. Hardest hit was the Monroe area after three Snohomish County PUD substations went out, with 14,000 customers affected. About 10,000 in Tacoma, 3,300 Seattle City Light customers, 2,800 Renton customers and 700 on Vashon Island also spent a few hours in the dark.
The year 2009 was full of extremes. January began with snow lingering from the previous month. Landslides and floods followed in the springtime. May and June were notably dry, with 29 consecutive days with no measurable rainfall from May 28 through June 25. A tornado touched down near Buckley on Sept. 6 and moved northeast almost 10 miles to outside Enumclaw in a span of 16 minutes.
This year has had similar extremes, though during different months. A notably warm and dry January was followed by multiple major snow events in February. It warmed up in March, with four daily heat records set in the middle of the month. Two daily heat records were set in May, and less than half of the normal amount of rainfall fell in June. A tornado also touched down in nearby Portland, Oregon on July 2.
This July, meanwhile, is actually the month with the closest to “normal” temperatures Seattle has experienced in 2019, though it has been notably wet. So far, 1.5 inches of rain has fallen in July, nearly double the normal 0.79 inches.
Today’s weather was expected to stay sunny, with high temperatures in the high 70s to low 80s. Starting Tuesday, a thicker marine layer of clouds was expected to roll in for the morning before burning off by the afternoon. Showers were possible especially along the north coast and in the Olympics starting Wednesday.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the country and world, July 2019 has been marked with record-breaking heatwaves.
For photos of people keeping cool during the heatwave 10 years ago, click through the slideshow above.