February 16, 2022

‘Prolonged, dangerous and historic’ heat wave bakes much of Western Canada | CBC News

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.

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

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.

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.

City of Vancouver workers install a misting station to help people cool off during the heat wave last Friday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

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. 

WATCH | Climatologist explains cause of Western Canada’s heat wave: 

David Phillips, senior climatologist for Environment Canada, says the high-pressure heat dome over parts of Western Canada creates an effect that’s like ‘putting a lid on boiling water.’ 3:52

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.

The City of Vancouver has set up cooling centres throughout the city to help people avoid heat stroke. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

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.

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