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King County lays out new strategy for heat waves ahead of 80-degree weekend forecast

SEATTLE — A year after a heat wave swept across the Puget Sound region, killing 38 people in King County during temperatures upward of 100 degrees, the county is developing its first-ever extreme heat mitigation strategy.

Last year’s heat wave included Seattle weather station recordings of 102 degrees on June 26, 104 degrees on June 27, and 108 degrees on June 28. Higher temperatures were recorded farther away from Puget Sound, including 118 degrees in Maple Valley, according to the county.

Experts from public health, climate preparedness, and emergency management are working with communities to develop the strategy.

King County has applied for a FEMA grant. The application included data from the heat mapping project it conducted in 2020 with the City of Seattle that identified the impacts that hotter summers are having on the region.

The plan will identify actions needed to improve the area’s response to extreme heat so that people and property are better prepared for more long, hazardous heat waves predicted by climate scientists, the county said in a news release.

Since the 2021 heat wave, King County and its partners have:

  • Created and distributed materials in multiple languages with information about how to stay safe during heat waves.
  • Updated public health recommendations for extreme heat to be more in line with National Weather Service heat and health risk factors.
  • Increased the number of languages for emergency alerts from two to nine.
  • Activated the Office of Emergency Management’s Trusted Partner Network of volunteers who help ensure that everyone in King County — regardless of the language they speak — gets the public information.

“Last year we experienced the single most deadly climate event in our history, and these events are expected to be longer in duration, and more intense going forward,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County. “We must prepare both for the inevitable heat events that will continue to challenge us, and also do what we can to minimize the risk for these becoming even more catastrophic in the future.”