Heat records were broken day after day in the Fraser Canyon earlier this week.
Lytton, already known as being the hottest place in B.C., toppled the national record for the hottest high at 46.6 degrees Celsius on Sunday. That was hotter than Las Vegas and just a little below Death Valley, California. But that record was short lived — Tuesday brought even higher temperatures to the tiny hamlet, hitting a record 49.4 C.
As the thermostats rose late last week, a cooling centre was quickly set up by Hope and Area Transition Society. They aimed to provide relief for those without air conditioning at home, or for those who are unhoused. The centre, at the Hope Recreation Centre’s conference room, was open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. through the weekend and into at least Tuesday (as of press time).
Outreach workers canvassed the town informing contacts that the cooling centre was available, and provided hats, sunscreen and water to those who visited.
Many businesses also chose to close down for a few days, or just in the afternoons, to keep their workers safe. The District of Hope was monitoring the weather for their employees and had their outside operations adjusted for safety.
CAO John Fortoloczky said they had outside operations staff only working until noon on days that were too hot, and were making any changes to protect staff and public health as required.
Hope hit 41.4 C on Monday afternoon, and temperatures were expected to cool down throughout the week, settling in the high 20s. But many meteorologists have said this extreme weather is likely a result of climate change, and B.C. can expect more of this in the future.
It was also a perfect storm of sorts, referred to as a heat dome.
A heat dome is caused by a strong ridge of high pressure that traps warm air underneath it. Although not a term commonly used by Environment Canada scientists, the heat dome gets its name because the ridge acts like a dome, allowing the sun to crank up the heat below and create a heat wave that lasts at least a few days.
In July 2009, a similar weather pattern led to a deadly heat wave in the Lower Mainland.
Scott Lear, a Simon Fraser University health sciences professor, offers up the following five tips on avoiding heat exhaustion:
– Know the weather conditions beforehand so you can try and plan for it accordingly.
– Wear sunscreen and light, clothing.
– Drink fluids regularly.
– Avoid exercise, or physically exerting yourself, at peak hours of heat; if possible, exercise in an air-conditioned gym
– If you are completing an athletic event during the day and you usually train during the early morning or evening, you should also acclimatize your body to the midday heat.
“High temperatures are historically associated with an increase in deaths among Lower Mainland residents,” Fraser Health said in an Extreme Heat Alert issued last Friday afternoon.
-with files from Sarah Gawdin and Canadian Press
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