Metro Phoenix will set new record for heat deaths in 2023 | Phoenix New Times

Summer’s over, but Phoenix heat still keeps killing people

The number of heat deaths in Maricopa County has set a new record each year since 2016.
After a summer of sizzling pavement and record heat, we may soon have freedom from 100-degree highs.
After a summer of sizzling pavement and record heat, we may soon have freedom from 100-degree highs. O'Hara Shipe
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The Valley's record-breaking heat this year has killed 425 people so far, according to the most recent tally of heat deaths from the Maricopa County Department of Public Health.

The latest heat report confirmed 425 heat-associated deaths through Tuesday, with another 199 cases under investigation. At the same point in 2022, 359 heat-related fatalities were recorded, and by the end of the heat surveillance season in October last year, the county saw a record 425 deaths.

That means 2023 is likely to see the deadliest heat season since the county started its current tracking system in 2012, when 110 people died.

“Even with extreme heat like we saw this summer, these deaths are preventable,” Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine, medical director for the health department, said in a prepared statement. “This tragic record reminds us that as a community, we have more work to do to prevent these deaths.”

The number of heat deaths in the county has set a new record each year since 2016. The 2022 total of 425 was 25% higher than the record of 339 set in 2021, according to the county.

“Maricopa County residents and visitors should continue to practice heat safety and check on neighbors, even this late in the season, because heat illness and deaths can occur all the way into November due to rising temperatures,” Sunenshine added. “It’s not just extreme heat days that can turn into a tragedy.”

The county's heat death tally for 2023 likely won't be finalized for several months.
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A person cools off amid searing heat that reached 115 degrees on July 16.
Brandon Bell / Getty Images

A heat illness can quickly turn tragic in Phoenix

The heat deaths came as Phoenicians endured the hottest three months in recorded history. That included the second-hottest August since the Copper State started keeping records in 1895. More notably, though, the region endured the hottest July in history and scorching temps at or higher than 100 degrees for 31 consecutive days.

"When it’s this warm for this long, anyone can have a heat illness that can lead to tragic consequences," Sonia Singh, a spokesperson for the county health department, told Phoenix New Times in early October.

So far in 2023, 44% of the heat-related deaths in 2023 were among homeless people. Nearly three-quarters of the deaths — 73% — occurred outdoors, according to the county report.

Fifty-three percent of who died were people between the ages of 35 and 64, while 59% of deaths were among white people. Hispanic or Latino people accounted for 24% of heat-associated deaths.

Yet, the end of triple-digit temperatures that turn Phoenix into an outdoor oven may soon be over for the year.

"We’ll be celebrating freedom from 100-degree highs after today (maybe after tomorrow)," the county announced Friday.
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