Heat wave breaks daily records in Ontario, Quebec

A scorching heat wave toppled daily temperature records in 11 cities in Ontario and a dozen communities in Quebec Thursday.

The hottest spot in Canada was Pearson International Airport, where the temperature hit 37.5 C, setting a record for July 21.

Windsor, Ont., also set a record for this date when the temperature hit 37.2 C at the airport. With the humidex, it felt even hotter.

Jodi Stone brought her kids to a splash pool in Windsor. "It's unbelievably hot and humid, so we decided to get the kids out and get them cooled off because it's just too hot at home," she said.

Her four-year-old son James took a break from splashing through the water to list off the must-do's for staying cool, which include drinking juice and eating ice cream.

Kylie Clark was enjoying the heat at an Ottawa area beach. The temperature in Ottawa hit 36 C on Thursday but felt like 46 with the humidity.

"We complain about the winter, and then we complain about the heat," Clark said from Westboro beach. "I say pick a season and then don't complain about the other one."

Frank Olszynko, owner of Lois 'n Frima's Ice Cream, described the hot weather in the Ottawa area as "heaven on earth."

"It is hot, but we have to enjoy it," he said. "We can't complain when it's hot. We can complain only when it's cold."

Olszynko's workers kept cool by standing in buckets of cold water while they served up cones to eager customers.

But CBC reporter David Gerow said some Ottawa neighbourhoods looked like a "ghost town" as people stayed inside to avoid the afternoon sun.

At least 11 Ontario cities set daily temperature records for July 21.

People in Quebec were also feeling the heat Thursday.

CBC meteorologist Karen Matthews said that 12 cities in Quebec also broke daily temperature records.

"Montreal was the best record broken, hitting 35.2 C, breaking a daily record set back in 1955," Matthews said.

Montreal public health officials were reminding people that many are at a serious risk because of the heat. In May, the public health agency published a report stating that in 2010, 106 deaths in the city were likely caused by heat waves.

Agency officials said the elderly are the most vulnerable, but this year they're also reaching out to those suffering from mental health issues.

The heat sent residents of several Ontario cities to emergency cooling centres, slowed commuter trains and prompted the Blue Jays to close the retractable roof of Toronto's Rogers Centre for their afternoon game against the Mariners (the first time it has been closed because of the heat).

Due to the extreme heat in Toronto, Air Canada Cargo imposed a temporary embargo on transporting animals via cargo for animal health and safety reasons. The embargo is reviewed regularly and has been extended for another 24 hours due to forecast temperatures, Air Canada spokeswoman Angela Mah told CBC News at 5 p.m. ET Thursday.

Thursday afternoon's thoroughbred racing card at Woodbine was cancelled because of the heat. The decision was made after the racetrack's management consulted with the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association and the Ontario Racing Commission veterinarians.

"In the best interest of the horses and after having discussed it with the HBPA and the veterinarians, it's the right decision to cancel Thursday's thoroughbred card," said Steve Koch, WEG's vice-president of thoroughbred racing.

Thoroughbred racing is expected to resume at Woodbine on Friday. at 2 p.m.

Canada Post mail carriers in heat wave regions were allowed to start their routes in the early-morning hours, so they're not out during the hottest part of the day, said spokesman John Caines. Carriers were also given sunscreen, hats and water.

"They're professionals as well, so they know how to conduct themselves in this kind of weather, but if they can get out early and get the mail before it gets too, too hot and get it all delivered, then it's better for everybody," he said.

Despite the soaring temperatures, the province's power supply is expected to meet demand. The Independent Electricity System Operator predicts peak demand will hit 25,591 megawatts today, which won't even be enough to crack the top 10 peak demand days.

The all-time high was Aug. 1, 2006, when Ontario needed 27,005 megawatts of electricity. IESO spokesman Terry Young said lower industrial demand is one of the reasons we won't set any power consumption records despite the soaring heat and humidity.

The heat has also forced GO Transit commuter trains to travel slower than usual as a safety precaution because the metal tracks they ride on expand in the heat.

The transit operator is warning that it could mean 10- to 15-minute delays.

Temperatures in southern Quebec could also break some records, with a forecast in the low 30s, including 34 C in Montreal.

Warm but less oppressive temperatures will stretch eastward, too, with temperatures predicted to hit 30 C in Fredericton.

The rising temperatures have been caused by a so-called heat dome — a hot, unmoving high-pressure area hovering over central Canada.

The dome is pushing the jet stream well to the north and keeping cooler or wetter weather out.

The same phenomenon has also caused a heat wave in the U.S., the worst in more than a decade.