British Columbians urged to make plans now to stay cool in advance of weekend heat

·5 min read
Health officials are advising people to drink plenty of liquids, particularly before they start feeling thirsty, and to try to avoid staying outside during the hottest part of the day. (Bert Savard/CBC - image credit)
Health officials are advising people to drink plenty of liquids, particularly before they start feeling thirsty, and to try to avoid staying outside during the hottest part of the day. (Bert Savard/CBC - image credit)

As Environment Canada warns of potentially dangerous hot weather over the weekend, health officials are advising British Columbians to make early preparations.

Extreme heat in the province's Interior is expected to last until Wednesday, with daytime highs of up to 41 C and overnight lows of 20 C.

"Make some plans now. We know the heat is coming," Dr. Sue Pollock, the chief medical officer for Interior Health said, recommending people seek cooler places. "Just avoid spending time outdoors, other than either early morning or late in the day."

Pollock is encouraging people to check on those who are at high risk — including the elderly and those with underlying heart and lung conditions.

Vancouver Coastal Health is warning residents that high temperatures, like those forecast in the coming days, are historically associated with an increase in death in Lower Mainland residents.

As the heat begins to build Friday, temperatures will soar over the weekend, with extreme heat and humidity during the day and nighttime conditions not expected to provide much relief. The heat wave will last at least until Tuesday, with daytime temperatures on Sunday predicted to be dangerously hot.

CBC meteorologist Johanna Wagstaffe says the reason behind this heat wave is a high pressure system that's moved in from the Pacific Ocean and created a heat dome. She says the dome has caused the air to sink and has locked in the heat for at least a few days.

Coping with the heat

Health officials say there are a variety of mild to severe symptoms linked with heat-related illness, including thirst, dizziness, confusion, weakness and fainting or collapsing. They are advising Lower Mainland residents to take precautions to protect themselves from the heat:

Stay hydrated

  • Drink cool non-alcoholic beverages (preferably water) irrespective of your activity intake. Don't wait until you are thirsty.

  • If your doctor generally limits the amount of fluid you drink or has you on water pills, ask about increasing the amount of water you can drink while the weather is hot.

Keep cool

  • Never leave children or pets alone in a parked car. Temperatures can rise to 52 C within 20 minutes in an enclosed vehicle when the outside temperature is 34 C. Leaving the car windows slightly open or "cracked" will not keep the inside of the vehicle at a safe temperature.

  • Seek out an air-conditioned facility, such as a shopping centre, library, community centre or restaurant).

  • Use public splash pools, water parks or pools or take a cool bath or shower.

  • At current temperatures, fans alone are not effective. Applying cool water mist or wet towels prior to sitting in front of a fan is a quick way to cool off.

  • Dress for the weather by wearing loose, light-weight clothing. Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.

  • Keep your home cool. Open windows, close shades, use an air conditioner (if you have one) and prepare meals that do not require an oven.

  • Avoid sunburn, stay in the shade or use sunscreen with SPF 15 or more.

Ben Nelms/CBC
Ben Nelms/CBC

Avoid tiring work or exercise in the heat. If you must exercise, health officials say, drink two to four glasses of non-alcoholic fluids each hour. Limit daytime outdoor activity to early morning and evening.

Check in on others

  • People living alone are at high risk of severe heat related illness. Check regularly on older people, and those who are unable to leave their homes, for signs of heat-related illness.

  • Ask whether people know how to prevent heat-related illness and are doing the same.

  • If others are unwell, move them to a cool shady spot, help them get hydrated and call for medical assistance if appropriate.

Get informed

  • Listen to local news and weather channels.

  • For more information on heat-related illness, call HealthLink B.C. at 811.

Pollock notes that the elderly and homeless individuals are particularly vulnerable to the heat.

On Friday, Metro Vancouver's daytime temperatures are forecast to range from about 27 C to 32 C, while nighttime temperatures are expected to only fall to 20-24 C. The temperature is expected to keep rising into the weekend and early next week.

Inland, temperatures are expected to build into the high 30s with temperatures in the southern Interior forecast to surpass 40 C.

Cooling centres will be open in Interior, Fraser and Vancouver Coastal Health, and because officials say the risks of extreme heat exceed COVID-19 risk, no one will be denied access out of concern for physical distancing.

Officials say that anyone who has difficulty breathing while wearing a mask should remove it, whether they are indoors or outside.

School closures

The Mission School District has announced schools will be closed on Monday due to the heat.

"Many of our elementary schools do not have air conditioning that is sufficient to keep classrooms cool in those circumstances," superintendent Angus Wilson said, in regards to forecast temperatures of up to 40 C.

Mission schools will reopen Tuesday for the last day of school.

School District 43 encompassing Port Moody, Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam announced Friday it is letting parents opt to keep their children home.

"Not all individuals tolerate heat well and this may be a factor in choosing to keep a child home or send them to school," said superintendent Patricia Gartland in statement.

"This is a family decision, and the school asks only that parents/guardians inform the school if their child is going to be absent."

The district says schools in the area also do not have air conditioning, and due to COVID-19 protocols, students and staff are not allowed to use fans. Ventilation is limited to direct air out of windows and doors.

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