Radio Canada International News Article

‘Prolonged, dangerous and historic’ heat wave bakes much of western Canada, including North

High temperatures could extend into next week for many areas, Environment Canada warns

Environment Canada is warning the extreme heat wave that has settled over much of Western Canada won’t lift for days, although parts of British Columbia and Yukon could see some relief sooner.

Heat warnings remain posted across B.C. and Alberta, large parts of Saskatchewan, Northwest Territories and a section of Yukon as the weather office forecasts temperatures reaching 40 C in some areas.

Sixty heat records fell on Sunday in B.C., including in the Village of Lytton, where temperatures reached 46.6 C — breaking the all-time Canadian high of 45 C set in Saskatchewan in 1937.

Environment Canada warns the “prolonged, dangerous and historic heat wave” could ease as early as Tuesday on B.C.’s South Coast and in Yukon, but won’t relent until mid-week, or early next week, elsewhere.

Climate change at play

CBC meteorologist Johanna Wagstaffe says that record is expected to be shattered again Monday, possibly in Abbotsford, B.C.

“This is absolutely connected to climate change,” she said. “First of all our baseline has shifted. Our new normals are already one to three degrees warmer across the province, even up to four or five degrees warmer through the north.”

Wagstaffe says that moving forward, British Columbia is forecast to experience more extreme heat earlier on in the summer as well as more days with temperatures above 30 degrees.

“While you can’t take one event and say it’s directly connected to climate change, this is consistent with what climate change will continue to do to our province.”

Alberta is set to be the country’s hot spot Tuesday with temperatures in the high 30s and more all-time provincial records expected to be broken before temperatures come down Friday, says Wagstaffe.

Drink water, avoid sun

Those living in the areas affected by the heat wave are being advised to take certain precautions to avoid heat-related illnesses, which can sometimes be life-threatening.

Here are some tips to stay safe in extreme heat:

  • Avoid the direct sun as much as possible.
  • Plan to spend time in a cool, or air-conditioned place, like a library, a mall, or even a movie theatre if you can.
  • Drink a lot of water, even before you feel thirsty.
  • Avoid strenuous activity and exercise.
  • Avoid sunburn and wear sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher on exposed skin and an SPF 30 lip balm.
  • Wear lightweight, light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing and a wide-brimmed hat, or use an umbrella for shade.

In B.C., municipalities and districts have opened cooling centres at public libraries and community centres for those who don’t have air conditioning.

Forecasters say humid conditions could make it feel close to 50 C in B.C.’s Fraser Valley, and area raspberry growers say any cooling by Tuesday may come too late for their heat-ravaged crops, with one farm posting on social media that its season is likely over before a single berry has been picked.

Flood watches are in place across B.C. for the extreme snow melt that is happening on mountain tops due to the high temperatures.

School districts across the province have cancelled classes for the day rather than hold them in classrooms without air conditioning, and the Fraser Health Authority says it is temporarily juggling appointments and relocating several COVID-19 vaccination clinics to reduce the chance of heat-related illnesses.

“All individuals with appointments at affected immunization clinics will be notified to proceed to alternate clinics and all appointments will be honoured,” the health authority said in a statement released Saturday.

More information was expected to be released by the end of the day on Monday regarding any extension of the temporary measures, Fraser Health said.

Record-breaking electricity demand

BC Hydro set another new record for the highest summer peak hourly demand — the hour customers use the most electricity — on Sunday night.

Electricity use reached 8,106 megawatts — more than 100 megawatts higher than the previous summer record set on Saturday.

According to the corporation, Monday’s peak hourly demand is expected to again break the record, possibly exceeding 8,300 megawatts.

BC Hydro says localized outages have occurred over the past couple of days which is especially concerning during extreme heat.

Paramedics overwhelmed

The heat wave has created an incredibly challenging situation for the province’s paramedics.

Troy Clifford, provincial president of the Ambulance Paramedics of B.C., told CBC’s The Early Edition on Monday that dispatchers received a record-level of calls this weekend.

“At times yesterday there was over 100, peaking at 130, calls holding between emergency and non-emergency calls,” said Clifford.

Clifford said in some emergency situations, people were waiting up to two hours for an ambulance.

“Paramedics and dispatchers are absolutely, I don’t know what to say, at wit’s end,” said Clifford.

He estimated 25 per cent of calls over the weekend were directly due to the heat and said people need to know their limitations, especially when engaging in recreational activities like hiking where rescue missions are complex and a strain on already limited resources.