Officials urge British Columbians to be prepared as heat warnings issued across the province
Most of British Columbia is now under a heat warning. In the Peace Region, daytime highs around 30°C are expected from Tuesday to Thursday.
This kind of heat is familiar to British Columbians. Last year, the heat dome in late June and early July saw temperatures peak at over 40°C. However, there is good news:
“This heat wave is not looking nearly as intense was what we saw in June 2021,” says Bobby Sekhon, a meteorologist for Environment Canada. “That was a historic, unprecedented event.”
The 2021 heat dome killed 619 people province-wide. 67% of those deaths were people 70 years of age or older. People were also much more at risk if they had chronic illnesses, or if they lived in “socially or materially deprived neighbourhoods.”
WorkSafeBC saw a 180% increase in heat stress claims in 2021, and 35% of those came from people working indoors.
This year, it’s not as hot, but it is still important to be prepared – especially since it’s common to continue to see stretches of over 30°C weather late into the summer.
“Into August, we could still get into a heat warning situation, so it’s best to keep an eye on the weather,” says Sekhon.
It’s also important to know the signs of heat-related illness: sweating, dizziness, muscle cramps, swelling, rashes, and fainting.
To prevent heat stress, drinking lots of water is important, even before you get thirsty. Taking cool showers or baths can also help.
Temperatures are usually hottest in the late afternoon to early evening.
“But keep in mind that indoor temperatures may peak later than that – 8 or 9pm,” says Sekhon. “Even though it’s the hottest time of the day outside, the indoors might still be heating up well into the evenings.”
Last year, 98% of heat-related deaths happened inside. Northern Health recommends getting out of your house if inside temperatures get up to 31°C for a sustained period of time. Stay with family or friends that have air conditioning, or go to community centers, movie theatres, libraries, shopping malls, or shaded areas outside.
The heat has also already caused very dry conditions, which means an increased wildfire danger. Starting Thursday, the BC Wildfire Service will be issuing a ban on open burning in the Prince George Fire Centre, which stretches across northeast BC.
Any fire larger than a 0.5m x 0.5m campfire is prohibited, and the ban applies to both public and private land. The ban will last until October 15, or until conditions improve enough for the order to be rescinded.