OTTAWA: Canada was bracing on Monday for its highest ever temperature as the country’s west and swathes of the United States baked in an unprecedented heatwave, forcing schools and Covid-19 vaccination clinics to close and the postponement of an Olympic athletics qualifying event.
The village of Lytton in British Columbia has already broken the record for Canada’s all-time high, with a temperature of 46.6 degrees Celsius (116 Fahrenheit) on Sunday. Temperatures have soared well above seasonal averages from the US state of Oregon to Canada’s Arctic territories, with forecasters warning of worse to come.
“It’s a desert heat — very dry and hot,” David Phillips, a senior climatologist for Environment Canada, said.
“We are the second coldest country in the world and the snowiest,” he said.
“We often see cold snaps and blizzards but not often do we talk about hot weather like this.” “Dubai would be cooler than what we’re seeing now.” Because of climate change, record-setting temperatures are becoming more frequent. Globally, the decade to 2019 was the hottest recorded, and the five hottest years have all occurred within the last five years.
On Sunday in Seattle, Washington state, the temperature hit 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), a record that surprised residents not used to warmer climes. “Normally it’s probably like, maybe 60, 70 degrees (Fahrenheit) is a great day — everybody is outside in shorts and T-shirts — but this is…ridiculous,” one city resident said. “I feel like I’m in the desert or something.” Another said: “You just stand around and you’re like — you can’t breathe, it’s so hot.” Doug Farr, manager of Seattle’s weekly Ballard Farmers Market, said the site had to close early Sunday because of the heat — something it normally only has to do for snow.
“I think this is the first time we’ve ever closed early because of the heat,” he said.
Oregon’s biggest city, Portland, hit 44.4 degrees Celsius (112 Fahrenheit) Sunday, the US National Weather Service (NWS) said, breaking the city’s record set a day earlier.
In nearby Eugene, organisers were forced to postpone the final day of the US Olympic track and field trials, moving afternoon events to the evening.
Across the border in Canada, stores reportedly sold out of portable air conditioners and fans, while cities opened emergency cooling centers and outreach workers handed out bottles of water and hats as more than 160 local heat records were set, including in the ski resort town of Whistler.
Several Covid-19 vaccination clinics were canceled and schools announced they would close due to the extreme heat.
In Vancouver, officials set up temporary water fountains and misting stations in parks and on street corners, while forest and fisheries services warned of extreme wildfire risks and low lake and river water levels stressing fish.