Heat Dome Moves Towards Alberta After Breaking Temperature Records in BC and NWT

Extreme heat warnings remain in place over much of Western Canada as a historic heat wave that has shattered 103 all-time heat records across BC, Alberta, Yukon and NWT moves eastward.

The “heat dome” responsible for the unprecedented weather is now settling over British Columbia’s Interior and parts of Alberta.

Environment Canada warns that more records will be broken in BC’s Interior on Tuesday, after the village of Lytton registered the highest temperature ever recorded in Canada, 47.9 C, on Monday.

In the Alberta Rockies, a high of 39 C is expected Tuesday in Jasper breaking the previous all-time record of 35.1 C set this weekend. The mercury is predicted to top 40 degrees in parts of the province including Grande Prairie; Edmonton and Calgary will reach highs of 36 C.

It was 38.1 C in the community of Nahanni Butte, NWT, on Monday, the highest temperature ever recorded in the territory.

Environment Canada has also issued four heat warnings for regions along Manitoba’s western boundary. 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.”

BC’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.

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

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

Burnaby RCMP released a statement this 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.

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.

BC’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.

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.

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

“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.”

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 BC  Interior where evacuation alerts were issued Monday as a wildfire grew to nearly two square kilometres. A provincewide campfire ban comes into effect at noon Wednesday.

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.

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