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North American heat wave of 2006
Dates 15 July, 2006 to August 27, 2006
Areas affected Lower 48 U.S. states and lower parts of Canada
Reported Casualties At least 225 dead

The 2006 North American heat wave spread throughout most of the United Statesmarker and Canadamarker beginning on July 15, 2006, killing at least 225 people. That day the temperature reached 117 °F (47 °C) in Pierre, South Dakotamarker, with many places in South Dakota that hit well into the 120s. A 130 degree temperature was reported at a remote farm in South Dakota. The heat wave went through several distinct periods:

  • From July 15 to July 22 very high temperatures spread across most all of the United States and Canada. On Monday, July 17, every state except Alaskamarker, Minnesotamarker, and North Dakotamarker recorded temperatures of 90 °F (32 °C) or greater. North Dakota had recorded a temperature of 104 °F (40 °C) the previous day.
  • From July 23 to July 29 the abnormal heat was concentrated in the West coast and South West deserts. 164 fatalities were reported in California during this period.
  • From July 29 to August 4 the heat wave moved eastward, causing further fatalities as it progressed.
  • From August 4 to August 27, high temperatures persisted in the South and Southeast United States. The heat wave finally ended with the progression of a cold front through the Southern Plains.

In early reports from this heat wave, at least three died in Philadelphiamarker, Arkansasmarker, and Indianamarker. In Marylandmarker, the state health officials reported that three people died of heat-related causes. Another heat related death was suspected in Chicagomarker.

Although many heat related deaths go unreported, by July 19, the Associated Press reported that the soaring heat was blamed for 12 deaths from Oklahoma Citymarker to the Philadelphia area. Reports by early morning July 20 raised the death toll to at least 16 in seven states.

This period of heat also saw a wind storm (derecho) in St. Louismarker that caused widespread power outages, including for cooling centers designed to provide relief for those suffering from the heat. In addition, places on the West Coast, like Californiamarker's Central Valleymarker and Southern California experienced humid heat, which is unusual for the area.


Reported deaths reached 22 in ten states by July 21, the end of the first stage of this heat wave. Reports of deaths trailed off over the week-end of July 21-23, though high temperatures persisted and power outages remained in a number of areas including New Yorkmarker, Missourimarker, and Illinoismarker. In St. Louismarker, half the city was without power due to severe thunderstorms, prompting requests for volunteer nurses to help cope with the situation. Though temperatures were somewhat cooler, there still was at least one further reported heat death in Missouri.

At least 31 deaths due to the heat were reported in New York City by August 16. [322402] At least 13 died in Queensmarker, 9 in Brooklynmarker, 5 in Manhattanmarker and 1 in The Bronxmarker. [322403] By the end of August, authorities totaled 40 deaths in New York, however a later mortality review in November 2006 revealed that heat was a factor in 140 deaths.

In the early August heat, Chicago saw at least 23 deaths, but the City was widely praised for avoiding the disaster that occurred in the 1995 Chicago heat wave which saw over 700 deaths. The City took steps to ensure vulnerable residents were protected, and individuals took responsibility for their neighbors.

By August 13, 28 heat-related deaths were reported in Cook Countymarker, which includes Chicago. [322404]

Deaths in California

The most severe death toll was in California, principally in the interior region. By the end of July, when the sweltering heat in California subsided, but the number of confirmed or suspected heat-related deaths climbed to 163 as county coroners worked through a backlog of cases. A report from California Climate Change Center published in 2009 determined that the heat caused two to three times the number of deaths estimated by coroners in seven California counties.

By July 25, California authorities documented at least 38 deaths related to the heat in 11 counties. Temperatures reached 110–115 °F (43–46 °C) in the central valley of California July 23–24. State officials said it was the worst heat wave to hit Northern and Southern California simultaneously in 57 years. Front page newspaper coverage described some individual deaths. By July 29, the mounting death toll left the coroner's office in Fresnomarker overwhelmed — double-stacking bodies.

There were also widespread animal deaths in California, with a veterinarian reporting 15 heat-related pet deaths as early as July 24. The impact on farm animals and agriculture was also becoming apparent, with the death of more than 25,000 cattle and 700,000 fowl, prompting emergency measures by the state.


Temperatures hit 118 °F (48 °C) on July 21 in Phoenix, making it the hottest day since 1995 and one of the 11 hottest since 1895, when temperature records were first kept in the city. California temperatures began reaching record levels by July 22. In one section of the City of Los Angeles, Woodland Hillsmarker, the temperature reached 119 °F (49 °C) making it the highest recorded temperature in the county and within the city border breaking the old record of 118 in Canoga Park. The unusual heat is driven in large fact to extremely high overnight temperatures. Needles, Californiamarker recorded a low temperature for Sunday, July 23 at 5 am., of 100 °F and even in the LA basin the same night, Burbankmarker dropped to only 77 °F (25 °C).

The California heat wave broke local records. According to some reports it was "hotter for longer than ever before, and the weather patterns that caused the scorching temperatures were positively freakish." Fresno, in the central California valley, had six consecutive days of 110 degree-plus Fahrenheit temperatures.

Beginning July 31 and into early August, the Midwest, Ontariomarker, and Atlantic states also began experiencing the heat. Temperatures approached the 100 mark in Rochester, New Yorkmarker on August 1 and were coupled with the highest humidity the area has experienced in over 51 years. The heat index reached 110 °F that day. La Guardia Airportmarker in New York Citymarker recorded three consecutive days above 100 °F. The temperature peaked at 102 °F on August 2. Colonial Downsmarker, a horse track in New Kent County, Virginiamarker, canceled horse racing because of the 100 °F heat. The Saratoga Race Coursemarker canceled racing at the horse track for the first time in its history on August 2, 2006.

By August 8, the heat wave had passed for most areas, but persisted in the South and Southeast, with continued reports of mortality in Oklahoma.

Reported physical damage

Dallas, Texasmarker, Shreveport, Louisianamarker, the New Englandmarker region, and other areas have reported damage such as ruptured water lines and buckled roads. The heat wave has been blamed for the damage. Interstate 44 had two traffic lanes temporarily closed in Oklahoma City after they buckled under the heat. In addition, overworked power transformers have been damaged or rendered useless because of the heat, resulting in blackout, notably in St. Louis, Missourimarker; Queens, New York; Los Angeles, Californiamarker; and Delaware Valley. Some wildfires that have started, including forest fires and greater thunderstorm intensity, have both been blamed on the heat wave.

Canadian heat

Parts of Canada, mostly areas of provinces located close to the U.S. border (Saskatchewanmarker, Manitobamarker, Ontariomarker and Quebecmarker) had been affected in waves by the persistent heat over the continent building from west to east during as the month of July progressed and into August 2006. Persistent heat and drought have plagued some of the same regions of the country during previous summers of 2002, 2003, and 2005, although large, frequent storms brought above normal rainfall to many areas in Ontario and Quebec.

By mid-month, temperatures had soared to 42.1°C (107.8°F) at Lytton, British Columbiamarker, with three straight days topping 41 °C (105 °F) despite Lytton reputation for some of the highest summer shade temperatures in Canada. Although various daily records have been broken, the only overall monthly records in a major city was in Winnipeg, Manitobamarker where July was the driest and had the highest average maximum temperature of any July on record. In Val Marie, Saskatchewanmarker the average daily maximum July temperature was 32.3 °C (90.2 °F), about 5 °C (9 °F) higher than average.

Just north of Toronto at Buttonville Airport, the temperature reached 37.8 °C (100.4 °F) on August 1, 2006. On the same day, the nighttime minimum temperature in Toronto was the highest ever recorded, only dropping to 27.2 °C (81 °F). In Ottawa, the temperature reached 36.3 °C (97.5 °F), but with the humidity factored in, it reached an all-time humidex record of an oppressive 48 °C (118 °F)
  • ^ Ontario records power consumption record
  • ^ Quebec storm
  • ^ Klinenberg, Eric. (2002). Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago. Chicago, IL: Chicago University Press. See also a related discussion of deaths due to cold.

  • Record power consumption was recorded in Ontario when 27,000 MW was used by consumers.

    Powerful thunderstorms affected parts of Ontario and Quebec on July 17 and July 30 in Peterboroughmarker, in eastern Ontario(Ottawamarker area) in the early morning hours of August 1 and again in Quebec, centred around Montrealmarker that same evening. More than 450,000 people lost power in Quebec in that storm. On August 2, more storms associated with a relieving cool front caused heavy damage over a wide swath of central and eastern Ontariomarker, resulting in 175,000 residents losing power and thousands of felled trees blocking roads. Eight tornadoes were confirmed in that region ranging from F0-F2 in strength, the largest single day tornado outbreak in Ontario since 1985.The intensity of these storms was fueled by the heat bubble to the south.These series of storms have killed at least four people and injured many others, in addition to extensive property damage and destruction of forested areas.

    After early August 2006, the heat only had a sporadic impact through the remainder of the month, mostly in the West. Temperatures returned to normal or even below average in other parts of the country.

Impact of heat waves

Although comparatively little reporting is made about the health effects of extraordinarily hot conditions, heat waves are responsible for more deaths annually than more energetic natural disasters such as lightning, rain, floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes. Supporting this conclusion, Karl Swanberg, a forecaster with the National Weather Service, reported that between 1936 and 1975, about 20,000 U.S. residents died of heat. This finding is also referenced in a publication of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, giving guidance on how to avoid health problems due to heat.

See also


  1. Midwest suffers as heat bears down Carla Johnson, Associated Press, appearing in Houston Chronicle, July 31, 2006 (July 21 total + 163).
  2. Triple-digit heat hangs on in East, Midwest Desmond Butler, Associated Press, appearing in the Houston Chronicle, August 3, 2006 (July 21 + Cal at 164 + 13).
  3. Front brings East Coast temperatures down, Verena Dobnik, Associated Press, appearing in the Houston Chronicle, August 4, 2006 (July 21 + Cal at 164 + 39). Note, however that later United Press International reporting on August 9 quotes California state Office of Emergency Services as counting 106 confirmed deaths, with 35 deaths "believed to be caused by heat stress or exhaustion.
  4. National Weather Service Climate, Bismarck, N.D.
  5. Heat wave continued for parts of South, Murray Evans, Associated Press, as reported in the Houston Chronicle, August 7, 2006.
  6. Nation Swelters In Heat Wave CBS News, July 18, 2006.
  7. Heat blamed for 3 recent deaths in Md., Baltimore Sun, July 18, 2006, afternoon edition (note: this story includes heat related deaths for July 14 and 16).
  8. Sizzling weather puts heat on ComEd Chicago Sun Times, July 18, 2006. ("A 50-year-old woman who was found unresponsive by her landlady in the 4800 block of North Troy was suspected of dying from heat complications, said Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford.")
  9. Heat wave blamed for 11 deaths, Colleen Long, Associated Press, appearing in the Houston Chronicle, July 19, 2006, 10 am.
  10. Heat Wave Ebbs in Parts of U.S., Colleen Long, Associated Press, appearing in Forbes, July 19, 2006, 1 pm.
  11. Heat wave's death toll rises to at least 16, Shaun Schafer, Associated Press, as reported in the Houston Chronicle, 5 am (this article gives better location references).
  12. BAY AREA: Don't pack up the shorts yet: Heat still on. Sweltering conditions forecast to continue through weekend, with no relief in sight for days, Michael Cabanatuan and Cicero A. Estrella, San Francisco Chronicle, July 22, 2006.
  13. The heat wave that was, S.F. Chronicle, July 27, 2006 (75 California deaths + 25 non-Cal.)
  14. Guard to St. Louis; Heat Deaths Rise, Jim Salter, Associated Press, retrieved from ABC News, July 21, 2006, am; same story appeared in the Kansas City Star, with more details, death toll described as "nearly two dozen", noting death of homeless man, two without air conditioning.
  15. Battered St. Louis seeks volunteer nurses, Jim Salter, Associated Press, appearing in the Houston Chronicle, July 22, 2006.
  16. Cooler weather brings relief for St. Louis, Jim Salter, Associated Press, appearing in the Kansas City Star, July 22, 2006
  17. Heat Wave Was Factor in 140 deaths, New York Says Richard Pérez-Peña, New York Times, Nov. 16, 2006.
  18. Heat wave was City's silent killer Carl Campanile, New York Post, November 16, 2006
  19. Heat wave victims fall through cracks, Chicago Tribune, August 3, 2006. (Reporting 6 deaths as of this date.)
  20. Heat wave continues in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Mississippi, Associate Press, appearing in The Albuquerue Tribune, August 8, 2006.
  21. City learned lesson from deadly '95 heat wave, Chicago Sun Times, August 3, 2006.
  22. Heat blamed for 4 deaths in California, USA Today, July 24, 2006 (Story appears to be developing, headline does not match story, which has 3 or 5 deaths confirmed, with 3 more under investigation. When added to deaths reported July 21, the total climbs to at least 25.)
  23. Estimating The Mortality Effect Of The July 2006 California Heat Wave, California Climate Change Center, Draft March 2009. Accessed 2009-07-23. Archived 2009-07-25.
  24. Heat claims as many as 38 people, tests state energy supply Aaron Davis, Associated Press, appearing in San Jose Mercury News, July 25, 2006. (when added to 25 non-California deaths, total reaches 63.)
  25. Heat wave not ready to ease up on state; Weather death toll rises to 41 -- forecast cooldown didn't kick in San Francisco Chronicle, July 26, 2006 (raises Cal. death toll to 41, total bumps to 66)
  26. KILLER HEAT San Francisco Chronicle, July 26, 2006.
  28. Heat blamed for 4 deaths in California, USA Today, July 24, 2006 (Story appears to be developing, headline does not match story, which has 3 or 5 deaths confirmed, with 3 more under investigation. When added to deaths reported July 21, the total climbs to at least 25.
  29. In California, Heat Is Blamed for 100 Deaths NY Times, July 27, 2006.
  30. 139 Deaths Later, Heat Wave Appears Over Olivia Munoz, Associated Press, appearing in Forbes, July 28, 2006.
  31. Heat Wave Proving Deadly for Pets, KCBS, San Leandro, Calif., posted July 24
  32. California's Cattle Death Toll Surpases 25,000 USAgNet, July 31, 2006.
  33. High Nighttime Temperatures Set Records Too, Los Angeles Times, July 25, 2006
  34. Bay Area Record Breaking Heat, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  35. New York, Boston Brace for Record-Breaking Heat Wave, by Shannon D. Harrington, Bloomberg LP, August 1, 2006
  36. Warnings issued as East Coast residents expect record temps, by Nick Martin, USA Today, August 1, 2006.
  37. [1]
  38. Soaring heat halts racing Wednesday at Saratoga Race Course, The Business Review (Albany), August 2, 2006.
  39. Daily Data
  40. Ontario records power consumption record
  41. Quebec storm
  42. Klinenberg, Eric. (2002). Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago. Chicago, IL: Chicago University Press.
  43. "Heat and solar radiation on average kill more U.S. residents each year than lightning, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods or earthquakes, said Karl Swanberg, a forecaster with the National Weather Service. Between 1936 and 1975, about 20,000 U.S. residents died of heat."

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