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Most populous Arizona counties closely watch heat-associated deaths after hottest month

PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona officials are closely monitoring the death toll from the scorching weather, as July turned into Phoenix’s hottest month.

Officials have put refrigerated trailers on standby in the state’s two most populous counties in case morgues are at capacity. Officials in Maricopa and Pima counties said coroner’s vaults weren’t full and trailers weren’t needed yet.

“This has been our normal process over the last few summers,” said Pima County Coroner Dr. Greg Hess.
Maricopa County, the state’s most populous county, reported this week that it had 39 confirmed heat stroke deaths this year as of July 29. A further 312 deaths are under investigation.

During the same period last year, Maricopa County had 42 confirmed heatstroke deaths, with 282 more under investigation.

Maricopa County is reporting 425 heat-related deaths overall in 2022, more than half of which occurred in July.
Pima County has reported 59 heat stroke deaths through July 27 this year, but has not said how many more deaths are under investigation. There are no comparable figures for Pima County last year, as follow-up was expanded this year to include heat-related deaths, as Maricopa County has been doing for several years.

Officials cautioned against reading too much into death bulletins, saying the totals could change dramatically over the course of an investigation, which includes toxicology tests that can take months.

The National Weather Service announced this week that July was the hottest month on record in Phoenix, averaging 102.7 degrees Fahrenheit (39.28 degrees Celsius). This surpasses the previous record of 99.1°F (37.28°C) set in August 2020.

Homeless people and those who work outdoors are among those most at risk of death from heat.

Phoenix and its suburbs have been hotter and longer than most cities during recent hot periods, with some records exceeding 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43.33 degrees Celsius) for 31 straight days. That streak ended on Monday. The previous record was 18 days in a row, set in 1974.
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Associated Press reporter Terry Tan contributed to this report.

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