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Heat wave dubbed ‘dangerous,’ ‘historic,’ bakes much of Western Canada

Lytton sets new all-time national high, conditions could persist in the Prairies until week’s end

Environment Canada warns the torrid heat wave that has settled over much of Western Canada won’t lift for days, although parts of British Columbia and Yukon could see some relief sooner.

Heat warnings remain posted across B.C. and Alberta, large parts of Saskatchewan, Northwest Territories and a section of Yukon as the weather office forecasts temperatures reaching 40 C in some areas.

Sixty temperature records fell Sunday in B.C., including in the Village of Lytton, where the mercury reached 46.6 C — breaking the all-time Canadian high of 45 C, set in Saskatchewan in 1937.

Environment Canada warns the “prolonged, dangerous, and historic heat wave” could ease as early as Tuesday on B.C.’s south coast and in Yukon, but won’t relent until mid-week, or early next week, elsewhere.

Forecasters say humid conditions could make it feel close to 50 C in B.C.’s Fraser Valley, and area raspberry growers say any cooling by Tuesday may come too late for their heat-ravaged crops, with one farm posting on social media that its season is likely over before a single berry has been picked.

More than a dozen school districts in the province have cancelled classes for the day rather than hold them in unairconditioned classrooms, and Fraser Health says it is temporarily juggling appointments and relocating several COVID-19 vaccination clinics to reduce the chance of heat-related illnesses.

“All individuals with appointments at affected immunization clinics will be notified to proceed to alternate clinics and all appointments will be honoured,” Fraser Health said in a statement released Saturday.

More information was expected to be released by the end of the day on Monday regarding any extension of the temporary measures, the health authority said.

Sarah Henderson, the scientific director or environmental health at the B.C. Centre for Disease Control is encouraging people to watch for symptoms of overheating.

“If you’re out and you’re active and you’re feeing OK, you’re probably OK, but if you’re out and you’re active and you’re beginning to feel too hot and a little woozy, then it’s really time to stop and cool down,” she said in a phone interview on Sunday.

“If you’re finding that you’re having symptoms like it’s difficult to catch your breath, you’re feeling a bit dizzy, you’re feeling a bit confused, like you might faint, then you’re getting into dangerous territory and you have to cool down right away.”

Henderson recommends drinking plenty of water and applying water to the skin while standing in a breeze to help the body cool down without air conditioning.

Heat can build up indoors to the point of becoming unsafe, she noted.

The sweltering heat and cloudless sky didn’t deter some Vancouverites from heading to the beach, and many umbrellas dotted crowds that appeared smaller than usual for a sunny day at the popular Kitsilano and Stanley Park beaches.

Others, like Natalie Moser, opted to find shade at their neighbourhood park.

Moser said she would normally stay at a local hotel to enjoy the pool during especially hot weather, but that option was hampered by COVID-19 restrictions and she thought the beach would be too hot, even with an umbrella in hand.

“Today was just really about getting something that was cool,” she said.

Eastern Metro Vancouver and the central Fraser Valley remained under an air quality advisory Sunday due to high concentrations of ground-level ozone.

—The Canadian Press

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