Published August 15, 2023

Records tumble as heat wave spreads from B.C.'s south coast to Interior, hitting 40 C


Nono Shen, The Canadian Press

During British Columbia’s heat dome in 2021, Nasrin Moshiri had to resort to putting the children in her daycare in the bathtub to stay cool. 

This week, she’s taking them to the beach. 

"I take the children to Stanley Park or go to the water, that’s how we stay cool," said Moshiri, whose eyes were glued to four children nearby at Vancouver’s English Bay beach. 

Moshiri said she spent her weekend with her friends picnicking under the shade at Vancouver’s Spanish Banks Beach. 

Temperature records have been tumbling across B.C. since the arrival of a heat wave that began on the south coast on Sunday, with temperatures in some parts pushing beyond 40 C, but officials are not expecting a repeat of the deadly heat dome.

Nevertheless, health authorities and local and provincial governments are urging caution before temperatures are expected to ease Friday.

The sweltering heat has now prompted warnings or special weather statements across southern and central B.C. and into southern Alberta.

Environment Canada says temperatures in several areas, from the Boundary and Okanagan to parts of the North Thompson and Kootenay were expected to see highs of 39 C on Monday. 

By 4 p.m. Monday, at least 12 daily heat records had fallen across B.C., surpassing the eight that fell Sunday.

The 40 C benchmark was also broken for the first time in Canada this year, with the mercury hitting 40.5 C near Lytton in the southern Interior and 40.1 C at Lillooet in the Fraser Valley on Monday afternoon.

While most parts of B.C. weren’t forecast to get that hot, the weather office said that with humidity, many areas could feel like they were nudging 38 or 39 C.

Madeleine Laidlaw, with the Gordon Neighbourhood House, which runs a summer camp for children, was also at English Bay on Monday. 

She said the beach helps the children stay cool and keeps them entertained. 

"They like to play with the sand and go into the water. There are always different crabs to find or clam shells and they love seeing all the animals, wildlife and seaweed," said Laidlaw as she supervised several children trying to make a sandcastle. 

The occasional ice−cream truck that passes by also helps, she said. 

Megan Allan and Michelle Gracey, who were enjoying the breeze at English Bay, said this year’s heat has been manageable. 

"It’s really nice to go to the beach, go for a swim, go for a float on a lake," said Allan, referring to her strategies to stay cool this summer. 

"If you don’t have a beach close by, you could put a sprinkler on the lawn and just run through that," she said.  

Gracey said bringing a spray bottle of water and hats can also "make a difference" by staying cool. 

Environment Canada says locations that hit record highs on Monday included Vernon in the Okanagan, Lillooet, Whistler and Port Alberni on Vancouver Island. 

Records were set Sunday in places including Malahat and North Cowichan on Vancouver Island, Agassiz in the Fraser Valley and Pemberton, north of Whistler.

Environment Canada expects heat warnings and special weather statements will be posted across the southern half of B.C. for most of this week.

Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health say temperatures are a key factor in determining health risks, noting that it can take hours for people’s bodies to cool and for the physiological strain to decrease after high temperatures occur.

EmergencyInfoBC says 147 cooling centres are available around the province.

The Ministry of Emergency Management has said a repeat of the 2021 heat dome, which claimed more than 600 lives, is not in the forecast but it warns people to take precautions to stay out of the heat, drink water and limit activity.

Not everyone is shying away from the heat. 

Quebec resident Manon Vigneux, who will spend 10 days in Vancouver on vacation, said the weather is "spectacular." 

Vigneux said there had been too much rain in Quebec recently, and she enjoyed her walk next to English Bay on Monday. 

She also had some tips on how to stay cool during the heat. 

"I would say drink lots of beer, but that’s not politically correct. I would say just stick with the water."

banner image: The Canadian Press

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