Despite promises, California doesn’t know how many people died in record summer heat wave
In 2010, as many as 900,000 people died due to extreme heat across the U.S., and now the state of California is dealing with the aftermath of one of the most destructive heat waves on record. By most estimates, close to 2 million people were forced to evacuate from their homes, with an estimated 1.5 million people under some sort of shelter in place.
The worst thing to happen to California over the past 30 years is that it now has a record-breaking heat wave on its hands.
At least 2.3 million people were under some kind of shelter in place (AP)
California is currently dealing with the consequences of a record-breaking heat wave that made the state one of the worst disaster-stricken in U.S. history, but officials at the time insisted it wasn’t the largest.
The heatwave, which was officially declared over after 12 days, left millions without power and forced the relocation of close to a million people. The state had been dealing with a number of other big natural disasters during the summer of 2010, most notably the drought that had brought long periods of dry weather to California. So what led to the heat wave that killed so many people?
Experts who work in the disaster response industry said there is one key factor: the warm weather that has been building for the last few months.
“I wouldn’t say it’s an unprecedented case, but it’s definitely the largest heat wave in the last 30 years in terms of the number of people that perished, the amount of people affected and the number affected in a single event,” said Robert Hirsch, an epidemiologist at the George Washington University in Washington.
Hirsch says the problem is California is getting warmer and that the combination of long-term drought and the high concentrations of pollution in the air can trigger the kind of rapid rise in temperature that is responsible for many other heat waves.
“It’s usually a combination of factors that results in this kind of heat wave — the drought, the pollution, and then the temperature,” he said.
The last major heat wave in the U.S. was in 1999, and Hirsch expects this one to have the same impact on