Good morning. It’s James Keller in Calgary.
Western Canada has been in a punishing heat wave for days, with weather warnings covering almost all of British Columbia and Alberta as temperatures climbed well into the 30s and, in some places, above 40C.
The heat wave prompted local governments to open cooling stations and urge people to take precautions. The hot weather also brought back memories of the heat dome last year, which killed more than 600 people in B.C. and fuelled wildfires, including one in Lytton, B.C., that destroyed most of the town.
Last year’s heat dome also served as a stark warning of the dangers of severe weather linked to climate change and revealed gaps in the province’s warning systems and emergency preparedness.
With the high temperatures in the forecast, emergency officials are insisting that they have taken steps to prepare in light of what happened last year. The B.C. government said it was ready to send emergency messages to cellphones through the Alert Ready system if temperatures became hot enough for long enough, and places such as Kamloops said they were implementing safety plans developed in the past year.
Environment Canada meteorologist Armel Castellan said that while the temperatures were high enough to post a risk, this week’s heat wave was not expected to be as severe as last year.
In Lytton, for example, the temperatures set daily records in the low 40s but still fell short of last year, when the town recorded the highest temperature recorded anywhere in Canada – 49.6C.
Emergency officials reported an increase in 911 and emergency department visits related to the heat. Interior Health said 18 people have visited emergency departments in the past week for heat-related issues, compared with seven the week before, while on Vancouver Island five people went to emergency departments this week for heat.
Relief may be in sight. Temperatures in most places in B.C. and Alberta were expected to peak on Saturday and Sunday.
But emergency officials know the heat could return.
In Kamloops, for instance, the city opened its arena as a cooling centre earlier in the week. It’s also training dozens of volunteers to staff two additional cooling centres in case they are needed.
This is the weekly Western Canada newsletter written by B.C. Editor Wendy Cox and Alberta Bureau Chief James Keller. If you’re reading this on the web, or it was forwarded to you from someone else, you can sign up for it and all Globe newsletters here.