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Heat dome moves toward Alberta after shattering temperature records in B.C.

Extreme heat warnings remain in place over much of Western Canada as a historic heat wave that has shattered more than 40 all-time temperature records moves eastward.

The “heat dome” responsible for the unprecedented weather is now settling over British Columbia’s Interior and parts of Alberta.

Environment Canada warns that more records will be broken in B.C.’s Interior on Tuesday, after the village of Lytton registered the highest temperature ever recorded in Canada, 47.9 C, on Monday.

Armel Castellan, a meteorologist with the weather agency, said the number of records falling has him at a loss for words.

“There’s really no hyperbole strong enough for this,” he said. “We’re just flummoxed with how much these records are breaking.”

heat wave
A person uses a misting station in Vancouver on Monday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

B.C.’s South Coast is expected to see some relief Tuesday as marine air flows in from the Juan de Fuca Strait and temperatures drop by a few degrees. But they remain unseasonably high — close to 10 C above normal temperatures for late June.

A ‘killer event’

Heat that intense and lasting for several days is not only uncomfortable but life threatening, said Castellan.

“We know this is going to be a killer event,” he said.

The elderly, children, outdoor workers, homeless people and those with pre-existing medical conditions are all at greater risk of heat-related illness and death.

B.C.’s extreme temperatures led to a spike in 911 calls requiring paramedics over the weekend, according to Emergency Health Services. Between Friday and Monday morning, ambulances responded to 187 calls related to heat exhaustion and 52 related to heat stroke.

heat wave
A woman hands out bottled water to residents in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside neighbourhood on Monday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The danger is intensified by the fact that nighttime lows are not dropping to normal levels, offering no relief and recovery time from the heat.

Meteorologists watching the extreme weather event have overwhelmingly linked its cause to climate change and a warming planet.

“We know this is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to heat events,” Castellan said. “We needed to expect this and to expect more of it.”

He said the ripple effects of an extreme event like this one are “massive.” Already, hot and dry conditions have pushed the wildfire risk over Western Canada into extreme levels and an exceedingly fast snow melt has put communities at risk of flash flooding.

Staying cool in extreme heat

Those living in the areas affected by the heat wave are being advised to take certain precautions to avoid heat-related illnesses, which can sometimes be life-threatening.

Here are some tips to stay safe in extreme heat:

  • Avoid the direct sun as much as possible.
  • Plan to spend time in a cool, or air-conditioned place, such as a library, a mall or even a movie theatre if you can.
  • Drink a lot of water, even before you feel thirsty.
  • Avoid strenuous activity and exercise.
  • Avoid sunburn and wear sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher on exposed skin and an SPF 30 lip balm.
  • Wear lightweight, light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing and a wide-brimmed hat, or use an umbrella for shade.

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