British Columbia

British Columbians head to parks, crank up the AC during record-breaking heat wave

British Columbians are turning up their air-conditioning units, sipping cold drinks and going out in search of cool, shady parks during the heatwave affecting most of the province this weekend.

Extreme heat risks outweigh COVID-19, health authorities say

Children cool off at Prince Edward Park in Vancouver, B.C., on June 26, 2021. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

British Columbians are turning up their air-conditioning units, sipping cold drinks and going out in search of cool, shady parks during the heatwave affecting most of the province this weekend.

Heat warnings are in effect for much of B.C. and Alberta as a "heat dome" has trapped high pressure in the west, creating long-lasting high temperatures. 

Temperatures in Metro Vancouver are forecast to hit up to 38 C on Saturday, with humidex values in the low 40s. 

Overnight temperatures are only expected to dip down to between 15 and 20 C, making for uncomfortable sleeping conditions after long, hot days. 

Parks prove popular

Metro Vancouver parks supervisor Marcel Labreche said when it gets hot, people flock to parks. 

"People are going to look for places that are cool. Hopefully they're going to look for places that are shady, near creeks and stuff," he said. 

Metro Vancouver residents and their pets hit up local parks on June 26, 2021 in search of relief from the high temperatures. (Doug Kerr/CBC)

He says one of the biggest mistakes people make when heading to a regional park is not taking enough water. He also recommends people pack sunscreen and wear hats and thin, light coloured clothing. 

Labreche also reminds park-goers not to leave their children or pets in the car, even if they only plan to pop into the park briefly. 

"Cars heat up so fast in our parking lots," Labreche said.

With the heat ramping up the potential for wildfires, campfires are banned in most Metro Vancouver parks, and briquette barbecues are not permitted either. Smoking is only allowed in designated smoking spots. 

"That's definitely a huge concern, especially with these hot temperatures," Labreche said. 

Electricity demand breaks record for second time this week

BC Hydro says that on Friday night, when temperatures in parts of B.C.'s Interior approached 40 C, the peak hourly demand record was broken for the second time this week, as British Columbians cranked up their air conditioners and fans to stay cool.  The mercury reached up to 39.2 C in Lytton on Friday, which holds heat record for the province.

BC Hydro expects use to increase through the weekend and to peak on Monday. In 2020, the peak hourly demand hit 7,900 megawatts on August 18. In coming days, BC Hydro foresees peak hourly demand going as high as 8,300 megawatts. 

The utility service has cancelled the majority of planned outages and has suspended disconnections for those who haven't paid their hydro bills, in an effort to keep British Columbians safe during the heat event. 

Staying cool outweighs COVID-19 risks, health authorities say

Health authorities across the province say that the risks associated with extreme heat outweigh those associated with COVID-19, at this time. 

The Interior, Fraser and Vancouver Coastal health authorities say that anyone having trouble breathing while wearing a mask, inside or outside, should remove it immediately. 

A cooling centre is pictured at the Roundhouse Community Centre in Vancouver on Thursday, June 24, 2021. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Additionally, cooling centres are open through parts of the province, and officials say no one will be denied access due to crowding or physical distancing. 

Extreme heat exposure can lead to weakness, disorientation and exhaustion, and in severe cases, it can also lead to heat stroke, also known as sunstroke, which can be life-threatening.

With files from Joel Ballard

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