Arizona saw more heat-related deaths in 2017 than any year prior
Summer in the Valley can be brutal. Follow these tips to stay cool. Wochit
Corrections & Clarifications: This story was updated to reflect a correct title for Brande Mead.
More people died in Arizona last year from heat-related injuries than at any other time in the state's history.
Maricopa County Health Department officials said Tuesday that 155 heat-related deaths were recorded in 2017, up five deaths from the previous record set in 2016.
The final number could be even higher, with about 20 deaths still under investigation, said Brande Mead, Human Services Manager for the Maricopa Association of Governments.
"Heat can impact anyone," Mead said. "While it affects people from different demographics more than others, anyone can underestimate the power of heat."
In 2016, 150 deaths were reported between March and October, when the county tracks deaths related to extreme heat.
The dubious record was previously set in 2012, when 110 people died in heat-related deaths in Maricopa County.
The spike of heat-related deaths in the past two years could be the lingering affect of higher temperatures over an elongated period of time, Mead said.
Phoenix averages 110 triple-digit days per year over the past decade, she said.
Despite the record number of deaths, Maricopa County is attempting to provide services for dealing with the heat to anyone who needs them.
County Health Department spokeswoman Jeanene Fowler, said the final report on 2017 heat-related deaths will be released "within the next few weeks."
The public-health department began tracking heat-associated deaths more than a decade ago, in 2006. Since then, the heat-surveillance program has given way to astonishingly detailed data about who dies of heat-associated causes in the state's most populated county.
The Arizona Republic examined heat-related deaths last year. It found some people had no place to go, perishing in vacant lots and alleyways before they could escape the heat. Others lived and then died without air-conditioning. A few simply gambled with their ability to tolerate the outdoors in the summer — and lost.
Extreme heat facts and tips for coping in Phoenix. Weldon B. Johnson/azcentral.com Wochit
Heat relief programs in the Valley
For the third year running, Phoenix will be offering residents ways to beat the heat. Mayor Greg Stanton on Tuesday announced the "We're Cool" Heat Relief Outreach campaign and the opening of the cooling and hydration stations across Phoenix.
Stanton said in a news statement the campaign is "aimed to increase awareness about public cooling refuges and hydration stations, especially among low-income transit users, homeless and transient populations, and other vulnerable groups."
A map of the citywide cooling and hydration stations will be available at key city locations such as libraries and transit areas.
The Phoenix refuge and cooling stations are among 138 located throughout Maricopa County.
Mead said there are no restrictions on who can use these stations.
Some locations are offering overnight stations for people in need of a cool place during hot summer nights.
Government agencies throughout Maricopa County are accepting donations such as snacks, hats, sun screen, sun glasses and bottled water.
For more information regarding the relief programs and stations, visit azmag.gov.