For 3rd straight day, B.C. village smashes record for highest Canadian temperature at 49.6 C

·5 min read
A man carrying multiple jugs of water walks through a sprinkler during a period of record breaking temperatures in Vancouver on Monday. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)
A man carrying multiple jugs of water walks through a sprinkler during a period of record breaking temperatures in Vancouver on Monday. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)

Lytton, B.C., has broken the record for the hottest temperature ever recorded in Canada for a third straight day, hitting a scorching 49.6 C on Tuesday.

The latest record was broken as a historic heat wave continues to scorch Western Canada, leading to a spike in sudden deaths in B.C. and dangerous wildfire conditions.

Lytton, a village in the Fraser Canyon located about 260 kilometres northeast of Vancouver, also saw record-breaking highs of 47.9 C on Monday and 46. 6 C on Sunday. Before this week, the highest temperature ever recorded in Canada was 45 C in Saskatchewan in 1937.

"It is so incredibly intense," said Bernie Fandrich, a Lytton resident and president of the local chamber of commerce. "It's a perpetual oven door open, and it's just too hot."

The community pool is closed due to technical issues and people have only a few air-conditioned coffee shops where they can seek refuge. Fandrich said the streets of the small village, which at last census count had under 250 residents, are virtually deserted.

"People are indoors and mind you, Lytton is usually not the centre of the universe anyway. But that's even less so now," he said, speaking to CBC Radio on Wednesday.

This week's heat wave has blown that previous record away. On Tuesday alone, seven locations in B.C. met or exceeded the 45 C mark, including Lytton, Cache Creek (47.4 C), Grand Forks (45 C), Kamloops (47.3 C), Kelowna (45.2 C), Lillooet (46.7 C) and Osoyoos (45 C).

The "heat dome" responsible for the unprecedented weather in Western Canada has now settled over British Columbia's Interior and parts of Alberta.

Record temperatures continue

In Alberta, at least three communities recorded their highest temperatures ever on Tuesday, including Grande Prairie (40.2 C), Jasper (39.1 C) and Hendrickson Creek (36.3 C).

It was 38.1 C in Nahanni Butte, N.W.T., on Monday, the highest temperature ever recorded in the region.

Environment Canada has also issued heat warnings covering most of Saskatchewan, as well as parts of western and central Manitoba. Forecasters warn extreme conditions will persist across the Prairies at least through this week and possibly into next.

Armel Castellan, a meteorologist with the weather agency, said the number of records falling has him at a loss for words.

"There's really no hyperbole strong enough for this," he said. "We're just flummoxed with how much these records are breaking."

B.C.'s South Coast is expected to see some relief Tuesday as marine air flows in from the Juan de Fuca Strait and temperatures drop by a few degrees. But they remain unseasonably high — close to 10 C above normal temperatures for late June.

Ben Nelms/CBC
Ben Nelms/CBC

B.C. sees spike in sudden deaths, 911 calls

Heat that intense and lasting for several days is not only uncomfortable but life threatening, said Castellan.

"We know this is going to be a killer event," he said.

The BC Coroners Service said there has been a significant increase in deaths since Friday, with extreme heat suspected to have played a role.

From Friday to Monday, there were 233 reported deaths in the province, up from an average 130 deaths over a four-day period.

In Vancouver, police said Tuesday they have responded to more than 65 sudden deaths since the heat wave began on Friday. The city normally sees about three or four sudden deaths every day.

Burnaby RCMP released a statement in the morning saying that in the 24-hour period since Monday, they had responded to more than 25 sudden death calls, many of them seniors. Police said it's believed heat was a contributing factor in the majority of the deaths.

In Surrey, RCMP responded to 20 sudden deaths Monday. They have responded to 18 death reports so far on Tuesday — much higher than the usual average of five daily calls of that nature.

The elderly, children, outdoor workers, homeless people and those with pre-existing medical conditions are all at greater risk of heat-related illness and death.

B.C.'s extreme temperatures led to a spike in 911 calls requiring paramedics over the weekend, according to Emergency Health Services. Between Friday and Monday morning, ambulances responded to 187 calls related to heat exhaustion and 52 related to heat stroke.

Ben Nelms/CBC
Ben Nelms/CBC

The danger is intensified by the fact that nighttime lows are not dropping to normal levels, offering no relief and recovery time from the heat.

On Monday, the surge of British Columbians turning on air conditioning to cope with the hot weather led BC Hydro to shatter electricity demand records for a third consecutive day.

Extreme weather linked to climate change

Meteorologists watching the extreme weather event have overwhelmingly linked its cause to climate change and a warming planet.

"We know this is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to heat events," Castellan said. "We needed to expect this and to expect more of it."

WATCH | Heat wave 'dangerous and record-breaking,' meteorologist says:

He said the ripple effects of an extreme event like this one are "massive." Already, hot and dry conditions have pushed the wildfire risk over Western Canada into extreme levels and an exceedingly fast snow melt has put communities at risk of flash flooding.

Environment Canada is calling for a chance of lightning Wednesday night in the parched southern B.C. Interior, where an evacuation order has been issued in response to a quickly growing and out-of-control wildfire. A provincewide campfire ban comes into effect at noon Wednesday.

Staying cool in extreme heat

Those living in the areas affected by the heat wave are being advised to take certain precautions to avoid heat-related illnesses, which can sometimes be life-threatening.

Here are some tips to stay safe in extreme heat:

  • Avoid the direct sun as much as possible.

  • Plan to spend time in a cool, or air-conditioned place, such as a library, a mall or even a movie theatre if you can.

  • Drink a lot of water, even before you feel thirsty.

  • Avoid strenuous activity and exercise.

  • Avoid sunburn and wear sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher on exposed skin and an SPF 30 lip balm.

  • Wear lightweight, light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing and a wide-brimmed hat, or use an umbrella for shade.

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