British Columbia

For 3rd straight day, B.C. village smashes record for highest Canadian temperature at 49.6 C

Lytton is baking as unprecedented heat wave blankets Western Canada

Posted: June 29, 2021
Last Updated: June 30, 2021

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There are worries about public safety as Western Canada’s dangerous heatwave intensifies, with no relief in sight.  6:40

Lytton, B.C., has broken the record for the hottest temperature ever recorded in Canada for a third straight day, hitting a scorching 49.6 C on Tuesday.

The latest record was broken as a historic heat wave continues to scorch Western Canada, leading to a spike in sudden deaths in B.C. and dangerous wildfire conditions.

Lytton, a village in the Fraser Canyon located about 150 kilometres northeast of Vancouver, also saw record-breaking highs of 47.9 C on Monday and 46. 6 C on Sunday. Before this week, the highest temperature ever recorded in Canada was 45 C in Saskatchewan in 1937.

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"It is so incredibly intense," said Bernie Fandrich, a Lytton resident and president of the local chamber of commerce. "It's a perpetual oven door open, and it's just too hot."

The community pool is closed due to technical issues and people have only a few air-conditioned coffee shops where they can seek refuge. Fandrich said the streets of the small village, which at last census count had under 250 residents, are virtually deserted.

"People are indoors and mind you, Lytton is usually not the centre of the universe anyway. But that's even less so now," he said, speaking to CBC Radio on Wednesday.

This week's heat wave has blown that previous record away. On Tuesday alone, seven locations in B.C. met or exceeded the 45 C mark, including Lytton, Cache Creek (47.4 C), Grand Forks (45 C), Kamloops (47.3 C), Kelowna (45.2 C), Lillooet (46.7 C) and Osoyoos (45 C).

The "heat dome" responsible for the unprecedented weather in Western Canada has now settled over British Columbia's Interior and parts of Alberta.

Record temperatures continue 

In Alberta, at least three communities recorded their highest temperatures ever on Tuesday, including Grande Prairie (40.2 C), Jasper (39.1 C) and Hendrickson Creek (36.3 C).

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It was 38.1 C in Nahanni Butte, N.W.T., on Monday, the highest temperature ever recorded in the region.

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A man cools off at a misting station amid scorching weather in Vancouver on Sunday. A stifling and dangerous heat wave has settled over much of Western Canada and parts of the U.S. (Jennifer Gauthier/Reuters)
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A sign outside a Canadian Tire states the store is sold out of air conditioners and fans in Vancouver on Monday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)
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Andrej, 10, plays at a spray park in Vancouver on Monday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)
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Windows are pictured open at an apartment building in the Downtown Eastside neighbourhood in Vancouver on Monday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)
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A woman who goes by the name ChillyBean hands out bottled water to residents in the Downtown Eastside neighbourhood in Vancouver on Monday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)
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An early-closure notice is posted on the front door of Uprising Breads in Vancouver on Monday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)
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Albert Huynh, right, tosses water at Leanne Opuyes as they cool off in Lynn Creek in North Vancouver on Monday. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)
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A construction worker uses a misting fan to cool down at a work site in Vancouver on Monday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)
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A man jumps into the water at Alouette Lake to cool off in Maple Ridge, B.C., on Monday. (Jennifer Gauthier/Reuters)
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Katherine Milton, who is experiencing homelessness, stops by a homemade cooling-off station that neighbours set up in their front yard for people to use in Seattle on Monday. (Jason Redmond/Reuters)
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Shanton Alcaraz from the Salvation Army gives bottled water to Eddy Norby, who lives in an RV, and invites him to their nearby cooling centre for food and beverages in Seattle on Sunday. (Karen Ducey/Reuters)
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People cool off in a public fountain in Portland, Ore., on Sunday. (Maranie Staab/Reuters)
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Christy Wilding and her dog, Birdi, rest at the Oregon Convention Center cooling station in Portland on Monday. (AFP via Getty Images)

Environment Canada has also issued heat warnings covering most of Saskatchewan, as well as parts of western and central Manitoba. Forecasters warn extreme conditions will persist across the Prairies at least through this week and possibly into next.

Armel Castellan, a meteorologist with the weather agency, said the number of records falling has him at a loss for words.

"There's really no hyperbole strong enough for this," he said. "We're just flummoxed with how much these records are breaking."

B.C.'s South Coast is expected to see some relief Tuesday as marine air flows in from the Juan de Fuca Strait and temperatures drop by a few degrees. But they remain unseasonably high — close to 10 C above normal temperatures for late June.

A man carrying multiple jugs of water walks through a sprinkler during a period of record breaking temperatures in Vancouver on Monday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

B.C. sees spike in sudden deaths, 911 calls 

Heat that intense and lasting for several days is not only uncomfortable but life threatening, said Castellan.

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"We know this is going to be a killer event," he said.

The BC Coroners Service said there has been a significant increase in deaths since Friday, with extreme heat suspected to have played a role.

From Friday to Monday, there were 233 reported deaths in the province, up from an average 130 deaths over a four-day period.

In Vancouver, police said Tuesday they have responded to more than 65 sudden deaths since the heat wave began on Friday. The city normally sees about three or four sudden deaths every day.

Burnaby RCMP released a statement in the morning saying that in the 24-hour period since Monday, they had responded to more than 25 sudden death calls, many of them seniors. Police said it's believed heat was a contributing factor in the majority of the deaths.

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In Surrey, RCMP responded to 20 sudden deaths Monday. They have responded to 18 death reports so far on Tuesday — much higher than the usual average of five daily calls of that nature.

The elderly, children, outdoor workers, homeless people and those with pre-existing medical conditions are all at greater risk of heat-related illness and death.

B.C.'s extreme temperatures led to a spike in 911 calls requiring paramedics over the weekend, according to Emergency Health Services. Between Friday and Monday morning, ambulances responded to 187 calls related to heat exhaustion and 52 related to heat stroke.

A man sprays water over his head at a public water station in Vancouver on Monday. Coastal areas will see some relief from the heat on Tuesday, but temperatures inland will once again be extreme, forecasters say. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The danger is intensified by the fact that nighttime lows are not dropping to normal levels, offering no relief and recovery time from the heat.

On Monday, the surge of British Columbians turning on air conditioning to cope with the hot weather led BC Hydro to shatter electricity demand records for a third consecutive day.

Extreme weather linked to climate change

Meteorologists watching the extreme weather event have overwhelmingly linked its cause to climate change and a warming planet.

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"We know this is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to heat events," Castellan said. "We needed to expect this and to expect more of it."

WATCH | Heat wave 'dangerous and record-breaking,' meteorologist says: 

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A heat wave in Western Canada that led to the highest temperature ever recorded in this country on Sunday will continue for several more days, says CBC News meteorologist Johanna Wagstaffe.  3:20

He said the ripple effects of an extreme event like this one are "massive." Already, hot and dry conditions have pushed the wildfire risk over Western Canada into extreme levels and an exceedingly fast snow melt has put communities at risk of flash flooding.

Environment Canada is calling for a chance of lightning Wednesday night in the parched southern B.C. Interior, where an evacuation order has been issued in response to a quickly growing and out-of-control wildfire. A provincewide campfire ban comes into effect at noon Wednesday.

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Staying cool in extreme heat

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:

A person uses a misting station in Vancouver on Monday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story stated the temperature of 38.1 C recorded Monday in Nahanni Butte, N.W.T., was the highest temperature ever recorded in the territory. In fact, the town of Fort Smith reached 39.4 C on July 18, 1941.
    Jun 29, 2021 2:09 PM PT

With files from The Canadian Press, Bridgette Watson