A heat wave that has gripped the state for weeks has contributed to as many as 12 deaths, and no relief is in sight.
Hyperthermia, or overheating of the body, caused three deaths. Excessive heat was a factor in the death of a fourth person and is suspected in the deaths of eight others, Cherokee Ballard, spokeswoman for the state medical examiner's office, said Wednesday.
“The risk of heat-related illness will continue this week as the weather pattern of hot days and warm nights persists,” the National Weather Service said in an advisory.
“Try to remain in an air-conditioned environment and learn to recognize the signs of heat stress. Check on friends, family and pets.”
Ballard said hyperthermia claimed the lives of Nathan Littledeer, 3, of Norman, who was found July 8 inside a car; Marcelino Calderon-Mora, 69, of Blackwell, who was found in a ditch after he had been pushing a lawn mower; and a third person from Tulsa whose gender and age were not released. Heat exposure was a contributing factor in the May death of a 74-year-old Norman woman.
Official causes still are being finalized for the eight others, although hot weather is suspected in the deaths of Preston Mayhan, 8, of Cyril, who died July 7 after he apparently crawled into the trunk of his mother's car; a 39-year-old Okarche man; two 45-year-old Shawnee men; a 73-year-old Shawnee man; an 87-year-old Cushing woman and two others whose ages and genders were not released.
Many others have suffered heat-related illnesses and injuries as temperatures have hovered around 100 degrees for much of the summer.
The temperature in Oklahoma City did not reach 100 Wednesday. Tuesday was the 28th day the city had a high of 100 or more this year. The record for a calendar year is 50 days of 100-degree temperatures, set in 1980. Highs are forecast to be 100 degrees or more for at least the next week.
Lara O'Leary, spokeswoman for the Emergency Medical Services Authority, said paramedics have responded to 144 heat-related calls in the metro area and have taken 92 people to hospitals with heat injuries since EMSA issued its first heat alert of the year June 17.
O'Leary said many more people with cardiac conditions, breathing problems and other chronic ailments have had their conditions exacerbated by the heat.
Citing the continuing heat and drought, Gov. Mary Fallin declared a state of emergency Wednesday for all 77 Oklahoma counties.
The governor amended a state of emergency declaration issued last month by Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb. The declaration covered 33 counties because of extreme or exceptional drought conditions and associated wildfires.
While some counties are affected more than others by the heat and drought, all counties are experiencing drought conditions, and forecasts show these conditions will only continue to get worse for all portions of Oklahoma, the governor's office said.
The executive order is the first step to ensure Oklahoma is eligible for federal assistance that may be available.