A heat warning was issued Friday afternoon for Calgary and Rocky View County, as a “prolonged, dangerous and potentially historic” heat wave is making its way across the province.
“Afternoon high temperatures near 30 degrees Celsius on Friday will climb to the mid 30s by Sunday, and could approach 40 C in some regions early next week,” Environment and Climate Change Canada said in the advisory.
“Little to no reprieve from the heat is expected, as overnight lows will remain between 15 and 20 C.”
The weather agency said the “duration and magnitude” of the heat wave means there’s an increased risk of heat-related illness and people are warned to take precautions to protect themselves and others.
“This is not a typical heat wave, as both the magnitude and the duration of this event are potentially historic,” Kyle Fougere, meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), said Thursday. “We’re forecasting temperatures of 35 C or greater for several days next week for Calgary, which will likely break daily temperature records.”
Fougere said it could break the all-time June maximum temperature record of 35 C set back in 1926 and the all-time maximum temperature for Calgary of 36.5 C in August 2018.
With temperatures expected to be 32 C or greater for five or six days, that could break the 1914 record of five days at 32 C.
According to ECCC, Calgary typically gets just five days a year of temperatures above 30 C and has already seen four such days in June alone.
“With temperatures this hot, the ability for the body to regulate its temperature is reduced, leading to a significantly increased risk for heat-related illnesses such as heat stroke, or even death,” Fougere said.
He added that without temperatures dropping below the mid-teens, the body is unable to recover from the day’s heat, making a long heat wave even more dangerous.
“The risk for heat-related illnesses is particularly high among older adults, infants and young children, those with underlying health conditions and those that are experiencing homelessness,” Fougere said.
Drinking water before getting thirsty is key to help prevent dehydration, Calgary Emergency Management Agency (CEMA) chief Sue Henry said.
“If you can avoid working or exercising in the heat and humidity, please do so,” she said. “If it cannot be avoided, be sure to take regular breaks, drink lots of water and maintain salt levels in your body and avoid high-protein foods. If you are outside, ensure you’re sheltered as possible with either shade or you take regular indoor breaks.”
Escaping the heat
The City of Calgary will be rolling out water wagons, providing cool drinking water to a few locations on a bring-your-own-bottle basis. City crews have also turned on 22 seasonal water fountains and all operational spray parks, splash pads and wading pools. City fountains in parks will be turned on by Friday.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic creates challenges for those seeking crowded and/or indoor spaces to try to stay cool.
“Even though we are seeing our cases of COVID(-19) drop, our restrictions are still in place until July 1,” the CEMA chief said.
“We will continue to work with our partners in the province to balance the risk of both COVID(-19) and the predicted heatwave. We ask that you be careful as you seek refuge from the heat and try to avoid crowded areas.”
Henry said gathering outside with a slight breeze is preferable to inside, in order to prevent transmission of COVID-19.
Calgary’s mask bylaw remains in place until at least July 5 for indoor public places, and Henry repeated the provincial public health advice to wear a mask when in close proximity to people from other households.
Calgarians are expected to flock to bodies of water and rivers during the heat wave, and that came with a caution from the Calgary Fire Department (CFD).
“We know where there’s water, there’s risk, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s a few inches or feet,” Carol Henke, CFD’s public information officer, said.
Henke advised that all small children be within arms-length when near water and to wear a lifejacket. Anyone planning on going on the rivers must wear lifejackets and not consume alcohol or drugs, she said.
“Please don’t tie your rafts together,” Henke said. “I know it’s fun and gives you that party atmosphere, but we see a lot of groups get into trouble when their rafts hit bridge abutments.”
And with temperatures being this hot, risks of fire from improperly-disposed cigarette butts or even hot vehicle exhaust is increased.
“In this heat, those fires will grow very quickly. And that is something that is completely preventable,” Henke said.
Stress to utilities
With the prolonged heat wave driving fans and air conditioning in homes, demand for electricity is expected to be high.
“Our friends at Enmax are anticipating that, with the forecasted period of prolonged hot weather, Calgary may come close to its previous summer peak for energy consumption, which was 1,692 megawatts reached in August of 2018,” the CEMA chief said.
Henry added that Calgary’s electrical utility “ has one of the most reliable electricity systems in North America.”
The city’s water utility is also expected to be under high demand, as Calgarians try to keep their lawns and gardens watered.
“As you can imagine, in the upcoming weeks we’re going to be paying a lot of attention to our city demand on our supply on the forecast, and to make sure that we’re going to continue to be able to provide everyone with the water that they need,” John Jagorinec, the city’s manager of water treatment, said.
Jagorinec added city crews will be doing what they can to conserve water, like reduced waterings at low-traffic city parks, flowers and other plants. He advised homeowners keep their grass long to retain moisture.
June is typically the city’s wettest month, according to ECCC, averaging 94 mm of precipitation. As of June 24, the city only recorded 15.9 mm. May 2021 also saw only 60 per cent of its monthly average for precipitation.
Tips to keep your home cool:
- Close blinds/curtains during the day
- Put fans by windows at night to pull cool air in
- Avoid using your oven
- If you have air conditioning, check that it works before the heat wave sets in
Tips to keep cool:
- Drink water before you feel thirsty
- Avoid strenuous activities in the heat of the day
- Take frequent breaks in shaded areas or indoors if you have to work outside
- Sleep in cooler parts of the house
- Wear sunscreen, loose-fitting clothing, a wide-brimmed hat and UVA- and UVB-blocking sunglasses
- Do not leave children or pets in vehicles for any amount of time, even with windows open