British Columbians asked to check on the vulnerable amid heat wave ‘blanket’

Click to play video: 'Temperatures reach 40 degrees amid BC heat wave'
Temperatures reach 40 degrees amid BC heat wave
The sweltering heat that started on the South Coast has crept further inland. People in the Interior are dealing with temperatures far above normal. Aaron McArthur has more on the hotspots and why some people can't find relief – Aug 14, 2023

British Columbians are being encouraged to check in on their vulnerable friends and neighbours as a heat wave “blanket” prompts more than 40 warnings or special weather statements across the province.

Temperatures in several areas, from the Boundary and Okanagan to parts of the North Thompson and Kootenays, were forecast to see highs of 39 C throughout the day.

Click to play video: 'Hot hot heat for B.C.'
Hot hot heat for B.C.

Kamloops and sections of the South Coast, including Chilliwack, Nanaimo and parts of Metro Vancouver, were not forecast to reach those highs on Monday, but Environment Canada said that with humidity, the areas could feel like they are also nudging 38 C or 39 C.

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“When we have this heat event, the atmosphere gets very thick. It’s like a very thick blanket,” explained Brennan Allen, senior project meteorologist with the federal department.

“What you see occurring is, throughout the day when the sun is shining, we’re adding lots of heat and the heat can penetrate the blanket, but it can’t necessarily escape as efficiently in the overnight hours.”

Click to play video: 'B.C. evening weather forecast: Aug. 13'
B.C. evening weather forecast: Aug. 13

Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health issued a joint warning on Sunday, in effect for the Fraser Canyon, Fraser Valley, Howe Sound, Metro Vancouver and the Sunshine Coast until Thursday.

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While this heat wave is not expected to reach the threshold of an “extreme heat emergency,” the health authorities said seniors, people who live alone, people with pre-existing health conditions, people in precarious housing, those with substance-use disorders, pregnant people, young children and those with disabilities are particularly at risk.

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Sustained high temperatures have a “cumulative” effect on the body, preventing it from getting the rest and recovery it needs from cooler temperatures, Allen explained. Higher dew points — the temperature air must be cooled to in order to become saturated with water vapor — play a role as well, making it more difficult for the body to cool down by sweating.

“Normally when it’s really hot outside, you’ll sweat and then your sweat will evaporate and now cool your body down,” Allen said.

“When we have these higher dew points and you see a humidex value of maybe up to 38 degrees in Vancouver, for example, your body will still sweat, but because it’s already so humid in the surrounding air that that sweat on your skin won’t be able to evaporate as efficiently into the atmosphere.”

Click to play video: 'New heat warnings issued for southern B.C.'
New heat warnings issued for southern B.C.

According to Environment Canada, seven record temperature highs were set Sunday across of province.

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A high of 37.8 C was registered in the Hope area in the eastern Fraser Valley, breaking a 13-year-old record by three degrees. Other highs included 35.2 C set in Agassiz, two degrees hotter than the previous record set in 2010, while the Malahat area of southern Vancouver Island reached 33.2 degrees, one-tenth of a degree hotter than the old record set in 2021.

The province’s hottest temperature was recorded Sunday near Lytton, at 39.8 C, breaking a 2007 record.

Allen said mid-to-late August heat events are “quire rare,” particularly in the Lower Mainland, as the nights get longer.

Click to play video: 'Heat warning impacts'
Heat warning impacts

In 2021, more than 600 people died from extreme temperatures during an unprecedented “heat dome” between June 25 and July 1. More than a dozen people died from heat in 2022 as well.

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Last year, the B.C. government launched its BC Heat Alert and Response System, enabling it to issue a public alert for extreme heat emergencies. That system can either send a heat warning or an extreme heat emergency alert. For the latter, the province has said alerts will also be issued through Alert Ready, the national public alerting system issued for Amber alerts and natural disaster warnings.

It also published an extreme heat preparedness guide, outlining steps residents can take to protect themselves and others.

Health authorities are encouraging the public to close and cover windows during daylight hours, make ice and prepare jugs of cold water, move to cooler places where possible, ensure digital thermometers have batteries and keep an eye out for indoor temperatures exceeding the danger mark of 31 C. Other tricks for beating the heat include cool showers and sleeping with a wet sheet or shirt on.

Residents should stay well-hydrated and make a plan to check on those susceptible to heat-related illness, they add.

Click to play video: 'High risk of heat-related illness'
High risk of heat-related illness

Signs of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, severe headache, muscle cramps, extreme thirst and dark urine. Signs of heat stroke include loss of consciousness, disorientation, nausea or vomiting and dark or no urine.

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If someone appears to be in heat distress, with symptoms such as rapid breathing and heartbeat, extreme thirst and decreased urination, residents are advised to call 911, submerge the person in cool water and apply wet cloths to bare skin.

More information on heat safety is available on the BC Centre for Disease Control’s website.

— with files from The Canadian Press

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