West Kootenay tries to keep cool under historic heat wave

·3 min read

A historic heat wave that’s gripped British Columbia is all in a day’s work for one Slocan Valley resident.

Mind you, he lives part of the year in one of the hottest places on earth.

“It was 50°C just now when I parked my car in the underground parking lot in my apartment building,” says Steve Brown from his office in the United Arab Emirates.

There’s not much difference these days between Dubai and the West Kootenay. Temperatures in both areas are expected to reach into the 40s for most of this week.

The high-pressure system brought clear skies to the province, but also put 47 of 57 regions under a heat warning. Here in the West Kootenay, temperatures started making records on the weekend, and were expected to hit the mid-40s this week in some locations.

It’s all due to a standing wave of pressure that’s lodged itself firmly over the region, allowing temperatures to slowly creep up to unheard-of levels for June.

“The longer that strong-standing wave parks over us, we see temperatures ratcheting up gradually,” says Jesse Ellis, a forecaster at the Southeast Fire Centre. “The days are longest now, and the nights aren’t long enough to shed all of that heat.”

Systems have begun to show heat stress. BC Hydro said record-breaking power demands have caused localized grid failures as people crank up air conditioners to try to stay cool, and the RDCK warned its resource recovery services might be disrupted by the heat.

In Nelson and Trail, emergency cooling centres were set up to help residents avoid heat stroke.

Fortunately as of press time, no major forest fires had broken out in the area.

What’s next?

As for relief – well, don’t expect it soon. There’s a chance that the ‘heat dome’ will begin to break up and move eastward this weekend, but temperatures will still remain in the mid-30s for the foreseeable future.

Ellis says the models show hot and dry weather continuing for months – through the rest of the summer and into September.

“It’s easy to forecast the weather when we have a standing pattern, but this weekend, next week and beyond, it doesn’t look like the strong upper high will rebuild.

“But that brings us into a series of troughs passing over the area more frequently. While that backs us off this all-time-record heat, it also opens the potential for wind, lighting, and rainfall events.”

In the meantime, take some advice from an expert.

“Hydration is definitely the key to survival, maybe mix a teaspoon of salt to litre of water and have a mouthful occasionally beside normal water,” says Brown.

He also avoids excessive exposure to direct sunlight, wearing a wide-brimmed hat or white cloth over the back of his neck.

“Long sleeves are actually better to avoid excessive burning of your skin,” he says, saying fair skinned and blue- or green-eyed people should take extra care to avoid solar damage.

“I also try and avoid being outside between 11 am and 4 pm, as that is when the heat is the worst,” he told the Valley Voice.

John Boivin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice

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