In a sign of the times in B.C., the lower third of the province is under a special weather statement for either heat or smoky skies.
Or, in many cases, both.
Issued by Environment Canada, the special weather statements stretch from mid-Vancouver Island through to the Alberta border, and encompass Whistler and Greater Vancouver plus the Okanagan, Kamloops and Cariboo regions.
Pending where one lives, the statements can be dramatically different, though the overarching theme is that a strengthening ridge of high pressure will increase temperatures from Wednesday to Saturday.
For example, the Lower Mainland is facing temperatures from the high 20s near the water to the low 30s inland.
“The timeframe with the hottest weather will be from Thursday to Saturday,” Environment Canada said.
“The highest temperatures are expected to be in the Fraser Valley, Sea to Sky region, and inland Vancouver Island.”
Heading east, though, the temperatures rise, along with warnings for smoky skies and worsening air quality.
In the Okanagan and Thompson regions — which respectively include Kelowna and Kamloops — and straight through to Alberta, those areas are facing even hotter temperatures, along with smoky skies bulletins due to scores of wildfires.
“A strengthening ridge of high pressure over the Southern Interior will boost daytime high temperatures into the mid to high 30s Celsius, with overnight lows in the mid to high teens later this week,” Environment Canada said.
“The timeframe with the hottest weather will be from Wednesday to Saturday.”
The national weather agency said heat warnings may be issued for some regions as the ridge draws closer.
Regarding wildfire smoke, the province is divided into six fire zones.
As of Tuesday morning, there were 252 wildfires across the province, with the Kamloops Fire Centre (which includes the Okanagan) having the most at 90 fires. The Southeast Fire Centre was next with 68.
The Prince George Fire Centre has 48 wildfires, while the Coastal Fire Centre has five and the Northwest has four.
The smoky skies bulletins extend from the Cariboo south to the U.S. border and east to Alberta.
“Many regions of B.C. are being impacted or are likely to be impacted by wildfire smoke over the next 24-48 hours,” Environment Canada said.
It said individuals may experience symptoms such as increased coughing, throat irritation, headaches or shortness of breath. Children, seniors, and those with cardiovascular or lung disease, such as asthma, are especially at risk.
The province’s Air Quality Health Index, which has a 1 to 10-plus scale, provides regular readings for several communities across B.C.
Again, pending where one lives, the readings will vary greatly.
In Victoria and Vancouver, the readings on Tuesday just before noon were low (1-3). The Central Okanagan was also low (3), but the North Okanagan was high (8) while Kamloops was very high (10-plus). Further east, Castlegar was at high (9) while Cranbrook was high (7).
For more about the Air Quality Health Index, you can visit the Government of B.C.’s air quality website.