B.C. town sets another all-time temperature record as 'prolonged, dangerous' heat wave continues
High temperatures could extend into next week, Environment Canada warns
Just one day after Lytton recorded the highest temperature ever seen in Canada, the B.C. village hit a new historic high of 47.9 C, blasting through the previous record by more than a full degree.
As of 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Lytton had hit 47.9 C, according to Environment Canada. For context, that's hotter than the hottest temperature ever recorded in Las Vegas, at about 47.2 C, and almost eight degrees higher than Lytton's record high before this year.
Lytton, located about 260 kilometres northeast of Vancouver, has an average high temperature of about 24 C in June. Just one day earlier, the Fraser Canyon village saw temperatures of 46.6 C — breaking the all-time Canadian high of 45 C set in Saskatchewan in 1937.
New daily high temperatures were recorded in every region of B.C. on Monday and some areas saw temperatures soar more than 10 degrees above previous records for the day, including Abbotsford (42.9 C) in the Fraser Valley, Dawson Creek (38.1 C) in the northeast, and Gibsons and Sechelt (40.1 C) on the Sunshine Coast.
Watch: Heatwave smashes records across Western Canada:
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, the Northwest Territories and a section of Yukon as the weather office forecasts temperatures reaching 40 C in some areas.
Environment Canada warns that 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.
In response to the extreme temperatures, the B.C. government is introducing a provincewide campfire ban beginning on Wednesday. The wildfire danger rating is currently at high for most of the province, and has risen to extreme in several sections of the Interior as well as the southern tip of Vancouver Island.
'All workers are potentially at risk'
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.
In all of June 2020, paramedics were called out for just 14 heat-related health emergencies. But so far this month, there have been 304 — nearly 22 times last year's total.
Troy Clifford, provincial president of the Ambulance Paramedics of B.C., told CBC's The Early Edition on Monday that the heat wave has created an incredibly challenging situation for the province's paramedics.
In some emergency situations, people were waiting up to two hours for an ambulance, he said.
"Paramedics and dispatchers are absolutely, I don't know what to say, at wit's end," Clifford said.
As temperatures soared on Monday, WorkSafeBC asked employers to consider shutting down workplaces if workers couldn't be protected from heat-related illness.
"All workers are potentially at risk," Al Johnson, the provincial workplace safety body's head of prevention services, said in a news release.
"If not recognized and treated early, heat stress can lead to heat exhaustion and heat stroke."
B.C. emergency room physician Michael Curry said seniors are particularly at risk of heat exhaustion or heat stroke because, as people age, their thirst reflex naturally diminishes and they become much more susceptible to dehydration.
He also raised concerns for people with pre-existing respiratory illnesses like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or asthma.
"The low-level pollution that we're getting as a result of the heat is definitely going to make people a lot more vulnerable to a flare-up or an attack," said Curry.
Climate change at play
CBC meteorologist Johanna Wagstaffe said that in the coming years, British Columbia is forecast to experience more extreme heat earlier on in the summer, as well as more days with temperatures above 30 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."
Alberta is set to be the country's hot spot on Tuesday, with temperatures in the high 30s, and more all-time provincial records are expected to be broken before temperatures come down Friday, Wagstaffe says.
"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."
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:
- Avoid the direct sun as much as possible.
- Plan to spend time in a cool, or air-conditioned place, such as 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.
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 cancelled classes for Monday rather than hold them in classrooms without air conditioning, while some have modified their schedules for Tuesday so that students will only be in class in the morning.
COVID-19 vaccination appointments at some clinics in Vancouver had to be postponed on Monday because of the heat, while Fraser Health is redirecting patients at seven clinics to other sites with better cooling.
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.
With files from The Canadian Press, The Early Edition