Scorching temperatures expected to roast the Okanagan this weekend could smash heat records, meteorologists say.
Unprecedented June temperatures are forecast to soar into the 40s on Sunday and Monday.
Global Okanagan meteorologist Peter Quinlan says Kelowna has never hit 40 degrees in June before. The forecast high for Monday is around 40 C.
The previous record for that date is 39.5 C, set in 2015.
Sunday could also be a record-breaker with a forecast high around 39 degrees — hot enough to likely smash the previous record of 38.1 C, also set in 2015.
Saturday will also be quite hot with an afternoon high around 37 C.
Penticton could surpass a 96-year-old heat record on Sunday.
The South Okanagan city is expected to hit 39 C, which would break the record of 37.8 C set in 1925.
With temperatures ramping up, Environment Canada also issued a heat warning for the Okanagan on Wednesday afternoon.
The national weather agency said, “persons in or near this area should be on the lookout for adverse weather conditions and take necessary safety precautions.”
The heat warning was issued at 4:13 p.m. PT, with Environment Canada adding to watch for future statements.
Bobby Sekhon, a meteorologist with Environment Canada, says the Southern Interior’s heatwave is unseasonably hot for June, with temperatures 10 degrees above average.
“We sometimes see this later in July or August, but this strong ridge of high pressure has come quite a bit early,” he said.
“If you are part of the more vulnerable population, whether you are working outdoors — infants, older adults, pregnant people, or anything body with a chronic illness — you want to be particularly careful out there in the heat of the day.”
Health officials are urging B.C. Interior residents to take precautions to avoid heat-related illness.
“Heat-related illness can be detrimental to health, and it can manifest as severe sweating, rash, cramps, exhaustion, all the way to heat stroke. And heat stroke is a life-threatening condition,” said Interior Health medical health officer Dr. Silvina Mema.
“The most important thing is to stay cool and stay hydrated. Avoid being outside or in direct sun at the hottest time of the day, and that is between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.”
Okanagan municipalities are scrambling to take measures to help their residents combat the heat, while non-profit organizations are taking steps to support the street-entrenched population.
Tony Laing, CEO of Penticton and District Society for Comming Living, which operates shelters and supportive housing facilities in Penticton, says staff members are handing out water bottles.
The Kelowna Gospel Mission and Canadian Mental Health Association are also distributing bottled water, hats and sunscreen.
At the Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society, outreach workers are also handing out freezies and hand-held fans to people experiencing homelessness in Kelowna.
Amy MacDonald, a licensed practical nurse working at a supportive housing facility in Penticton, would like to see the community mobilize to open temporary, designated cooling spaces.
“Even though we already have the supportive shelters, it’s never enough for the folks that we currently have out in our community,” she said.
“I have a lot of facilities that I could think of off the top of my head, if they could open their doors just for a couple of days, just like what we see when we see our extreme cold, I hope the community can take that same approach.”
The Central Okanagan Emergency Operations Centre is urging residents to be prepared for heightened wildfire activity.
“Our region-wide emergency program is ready in the event we are needed to support first responders,” said regional program coordinator Sandra Follack.
“Individuals and families should be ready, too, in case they are required to leave their homes, often with only a few minutes’ notice. Having grab-and-go kits for your family and pets at home and in your vehicle can help ensure you have the basic supplies and essential items needed to survive at least 72 hours away from your home.”
Emergency officials encourage people to be safe with any fires or smoking materials, especially at this time of year when conditions are extremely dry.
Campfires should be kept small and campers should ensure they are completely extinguished when left unattended.
Smoking is not allowed in any parks across the Central Okanagan and motorists are reminded to properly dispose of any smoking materials in ashtrays and to not flick them from vehicle windows.
The heatwave is expected to descend on much of B.C.
Temperatures in Vancouver are forecast to hit 30 C on Sunday. Victoria could reach 32 C on Saturday and Sunday, while further north, Prince George residents could see 34 C over the weekend.
— With files from Darrian Matassa-Fung