Heat wave toasts much of Ontario and Quebec

Click to play video: 'Period of extreme heat begins in Toronto'
Period of extreme heat begins in Toronto
WATCH: The first major heat event descended on Toronto with punishing temperatures prompting a warning from officials and the activations of Toronto’s cooling network. Matthew Bingley reports – Jun 17, 2024

A heat wave gripped Ontario and Quebec for a second consecutive day on Tuesday, while dangerously hot and humid conditions settled in over parts of Atlantic Canada.

Environment Canada has issued multiple warnings of high temperatures this week – in Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal, daytime highs could hit 35 C, with the humidity making it feel like it’s above 40.

Winnie Brown, a resident of Toronto’s densely populated St. James Town neighbourhood, said her portable air conditioner was no match for the sweltering heat in her highrise apartment.

When extreme heat aggravates her asthma, Brown said she has sought relief in Toronto’s cooling centres or has spent days at her sister’s home

“It’s getting hotter, very hot,” said Brown, who has lived in her building for more than 35 years.

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“When it gets so hot, I can’t breathe.”

Rain in the Greater Toronto Area on Tuesday morning offered an early but brief break from the heat before the temperatures climbed steadily through the day.

Environment Canada advised high levels of air pollution were possible across parts of southern Ontario into the afternoon and evening.

New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island were placed under a heat warning Tuesday. In Fredericton, the mercury topped out around 32 degrees, according to Environment Canada data.

Click to play video: 'Montrealers brace for a week of dangerously hot weather'
Montrealers brace for a week of dangerously hot weather

In Montreal, the beating sun sent people into shallow public water fountains for relief on Tuesday.

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Aga Baczynski, who was visiting from British Columbia, dipped her feet in a fountain outside a historic train station. Behind her, a person soaked themselves in a spray jet.

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“Every part of me is sweating,” she said.

Seated on a bench nearby and basking in the sun, Guylaine Gaudet said she planned for the scorching temperatures by wearing breathable clothes and bringing along a bottle of water.

“It reminds me of Mexico, where I was three weeks ago, so that’s OK,” she said with a laugh.

Montreal’s Old Brewery Mission had extra water and beverages stocked Tuesday as it offered people experiencing homelessness a spot to cool off in air conditioning.

“We encourage Montrealers to carry water with them. If they have a purse or a backpack … throw bottled water in there and give it out if you see somebody in need,” said James Hughes, the organization’s CEO.

Hughes also applauded the city’s efforts to extend library hours and get sprinklers going in public parks.

Sam Watts, CEO of Welcome Hall Mission, said the heat presents a risk not only to people who are experiencing homelessness but also people who are precariously housed, often isolated seniors, and do not have access to air conditioning.

“These are people that may have underlying medical concerns like diabetes, like a heart condition. They could be struggling with mental illness challenges, and so all of that contributes to the reality that they’re much more vulnerable to heat stroke,” said Watts.

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A spokesman for the City of Montreal has said each borough has been creating a list of places for people to cool down, including some pools that are opening earlier than planned.

The City of Toronto, meanwhile, said people experiencing homelessness can seek reprieve from the heat at various drop-in centres, shelters and 24-hour respite sites across the city.

Climate change, driven by the burning of fossil fuels, has increased the severity and frequency of the types of heat waves that have settled over a vast stretch of the country this week.

Environment Canada’s seasonal summer forecast, released earlier this month, predicted a warmer-than-usual season across the entire country, with the greatest chance of high temperatures everywhere east of Manitoba.

Environment Canada meteorologist Gerald Cheng has said a weather system south of the border is driving the heat. He said normal temperatures in the Toronto area for this time of year are around 25 C for daytime highs and 14 C for nighttime lows.

— With files from Sheila Reid in Toronto

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