Record-breaking heat ahead for parts of B.C., Environment Canada says
Published Monday, July 31, 2017 10:11AM PDT
Last Updated Monday, July 31, 2017 7:06PM PDT
Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley are expected to be hit with scorching temperatures this week, officials say.
Environment Canada issued a special weather statement Monday warning that temperatures will reach the mid to high 30s by Wednesday throughout the Lower Mainland.
“We are looking at a ridge of high pressure building over much of B.C. this week,” Environment Canada meteorologist Cindy Yu told CTV News.
“This is not the first time where we’ve issued a special weather statement for a heat wave, but this is certainly the longest stretch,” she said, adding that Wednesday and Thursday are expected to be the warmest days of the week.
According to the agency, daily temperature records will likely be broken in many affected communities. All-time records for the month of August could also be threatened. The highest August temperature ever recorded in Abbotsford was 36.3 C in 1965. The forecast for Thursday is 36 C.
The City of Vancouver is expected to experience a high of 30 C that day. That’s more than 1 C higher than the 28.9 C record set in 1939.
Temperatures could climb as high as 36 C in communities further inland such Hope and Chilliwack.
The special weather statement also covers Howe Sound, Whistler, the Sunshine Coast, the Southern Gulf Islands and parts of Vancouver Island.
Health officials are warning people of an increased risk of heat-related illnesses.
“Heat is a risk for illness in Lower Mainland residents,” Dr. Meena Dawar, a medical health officer with Vancouver Coastal Health told CTV News.
“We’re just not acclimatized to the type of temperatures that we’ll see this week…It’s important for people to be aware that everyone is at risk, so it’s time to take precautions.”
Dawar said children, seniors and people with underlying health conditions and who taking medications who affect their ability to respond to heath.
Those working outdoors and are also at an increased risk, she said.
“If you start to get symptoms of heat-related illness, it’s time to take a break from the heat. Get inside. Get into and air-conditioned spot,” she said.
Doctors don’t usually see an increase in visits to emergency rooms, Dawar said, but there is an increase in “summertime mortality” which involves people are dying of other illnesses exacerbated by the heat.
“People who are at risk tend to die within their own homes, so that’s why it’s very important to check in on others,” Dawar said.
Organizations such as the Union Gospel Mission are also warming homeless people about the soaring temperatures.
“If you’re homeless and the heat hits, heat exhaustion can turn into heat stroke or worse really quickly,” spokesperson Jeremy Hunka told CTV News. “We want to warn people that the heat is coming and we also want to make sure that they’re prepared.”
Hunka said UGM will be handing out items such as water, hats and shirts and temperatures climb.
“That can make the difference between just feeling the heat and heat exhaustion or heat stroke,” he said.
Officials also said people or pets should never be left inside a parked vehicle.
The scorching temperatures could also create more problems for firefighters battling nearly 150 wildfires across the province.
“The heat combined with the lack of rainfall so far this month will maintain high to extreme fire danger ratings across much of southern B.C.,” Environment Canada said in a statement on its website.
Officials are also warning that a change in winds is expected to cause smoke from the interior to drift to coastal areas of the province on Tuesday and Wednesday.
On Monday, Metro Vancouver issued an air quality advisory warning that "smoke from these wildfires may reach ground level in our region by early tomorrow morning."
Children, seniors and those with chronic conditions are most at risk of experiencing symptoms associated with the smoke in the air. Residents are urged to stay cool and hydrated and seek medical attention if they experience shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing or chest pain.
The BC Wildfire Service said the change in winds is also likely to dry out certain areas of forest, making them more prone to wildfires.
“Members of the public are urged to remain vigilant and help prevent human-caused wildfires,” the release said.
That includes refraining from lighting any open fires, ensuring that propane in recreational vehicles is turned off when travelling and being cautious with all outdoor heat sources.
Under provincial law, the maximum fine for disobeying a fire ban is $1,150. Those found responsible in court for starting a wildfire could be fined up to $1 million and be sentenced to one year in jail.
Since April 1, more than 800 wildfires have burned nearly 4,300 square kilometres of land in the province.
The B.C. government has spent more than $172 million in fire suppression efforts in that time.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is visiting wildfire-affected areas with Premier John Horgan on Monday.
With files from The Canadian Press and CTV Vancouver’s Nafeesa Karim and David Molko.