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Heat wave rolls into coastal B.C., bringing unseasonably high temperatures

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A heat wave has arrived on British Columbia’s South Coast, bringing unseasonably warm weather this weekend.

The rapidly rising temperatures could pose risks to those with underlying health conditions, so officials are warning people to be prepared.

Environment and Climate Change Canada has issued a special weather statement, forecasting temperatures to be 10 to 15 degrees Celsius above seasonal.

“With elevated temperatures, the risk of heat-related illnesses will increase,” wrote the weather agency.

The sudden shift in weather may make it challenging for British Columbians to acclimatize, so the health minister is asking everyone to keep an eye on their loved ones.

Adrian Dix says this weekend is not a heat emergency, and will not be as intense as the heat dome that resulted in nearly 600 deaths in June 2021.

“This is the first time it’s been hot, so we haven’t had a particularly hot spring, by our standards. We’ve had relatively significant levels of precipitation, lots of cool days as well. This is going to be the first hot weekend of the year and we have to prepare for that.,” said Dix.

Forecasters say heat records will likely be broken over the next few days.

On Thursday, the province released updated guidelines for its BC Heat Alert and Response System.

Going forward, a special weather statement will be issued before the first significant heat event of the season.

That’s because it takes time for the population to get acclimatized to hot weather.

“High temperatures early in the summer have a bigger impact on health than the same temperatures later in the summer,” wrote the BC HEAT Committee.

The weather statement can be issued when temperatures are hot but not expected to meet the heat warning criteria.

It can evolve into a full warning if the forecast changes, but does not automatically activate the BC Heat Alarm Response System (BC HARS).

A heat warning will be issued when daytime highs and overnight lows are expected to be higher than seasonal for at least two days while remaining stable.

Very hot weather has been associated with moderate risk to public health.

Officials say small increases in emergency room visits, hospital admissions, and deaths are expected in that scenario.

A warning does trigger the BC HARS heat warning response, but may be confined to a relatively small geographic area.

Experts generally expect about three heat warnings per summer.

“We’re going to see more of this. We’re living in an age of climate change and we’re gonna see more extreme weather. You know, I grew up in Vancouver and what we understand is hot weather has changed,” said Dix.

An extreme heat emergency is declared when heat warning criteria are met, and temperatures are expected to increase substantively day-over-day for three or more days.

Health officials say dangerously hot weather may present a very high risk to public health.

In that case, there is potential for large increases in emergency room visits, hospital admissions, and deaths.

A heat emergency activates the BC HARS extreme heat emergency response.

It’s likely to affect a large part of the province.

B.C.’s Alert Ready system may be used to send out mobile alerts in the days prior.

Experts say there may be one to two extreme heat emergencies per decade

The heat dome of June 2021, that claimed nearly 600 lives as an example of that.

That extreme weather is not expected this weekend, but officials still want people to use caution as our healthcare system continues to struggle to keep up with demand.

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Heat wave rolls into coastal B.C., bringing unseasonably high temperatures Reviewed by RP on May 12, 2023 Rating: 5

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