Calgary stores are selling out of air conditioners within hours and installers say they've been swamped with up to four times as much business as usual, as a heat wave that may well break historic records hits.
Ryan Wandler, vice-president of Knight Plumbing and Heating, says they received 250 requests this past weekend for air conditioning installations or repairs. That's about four times as many as the company usually gets during a June weekend.
With a stretch of several days expected to hit over 30 C and a heat warning issued by Environment Canada for almost all of southern Alberta, Wandler says people are in "panic" mode.
"It definitely surpasses what we've ever seen before, so [it's] definitely an extreme circumstance."
His company is booked weeks out, and he's asking people to be patient as they try to service as many customers as possible. In addition to high demand, supply constraints for air conditioning units and materials, largely attributed to the pandemic, are making it a challenging year.
"We're battling a lot of other items other than just the heat itself," said Wandler.
Ryan Tutak, general manager of Action Furnace, is seeing a similar surge in demand. He says it has been busy since early June, with two smaller heat waves, but that this one is creating a different sense of urgency.
"It's not usually this intense," said Tutak. "We usually have a chance to catch our breath and catch up with our customers."
Working from home has changed things as well.
"People are usually going to a nice air-conditioned office, so when they're at home nine, 10 hours a day now during the hottest times of the day, it's a little more bothersome," said Tutak.
The same held true at many stores like Canadian Tire in the Mount Royal neighbourhood, where air conditioners were selling out within hours of coming in.
How to stay cool
The last time Calgary had a stretch with five days of highs of at least 32 C was in 1914. In the absence of an air-conditioned house, there are other precautions people can take to stay cool as temperatures continue to rise.
"With just a little bit of planning ahead and some forethought, people will be safe and be able to enjoy themselves," said Stuart Brideaux, a public education officer with EMS.
One of the easiest steps to take, he said, is to drink lot of water.
"Don't make it sort of a game of catch up throughout the day. If you're already feeling thirsty, you're down a bunch of fluid."
Wear plenty of sunscreen and reapply it often, and wear or carry your own shades, he advised.
"A sun hat or a ball cap that keeps the heat and sun off your face and neck actually goes a long, long way to actually making it easier to cope with the heat," said Brideaux.