As British Columbians brace for the first hot stretch of the summer, they’re also marking one year since a “heat dome” sweltered in unprecedented temperatures across BC.
Temperatures began to soar past 40°C in many parts of the province on June 24th, 2021, leading the BC Coroner’s Service to investigate and find 619 heat-related deaths between June 25th and July 1st.
A coroner’s report released earlier this month, Extreme Heat and Human Mortality: A Review of Heat-Related Deaths in BC in Summer 2021, found that the Island Health region accounted for 55, or 9% of deaths.
That’s behind Fraser North, Fraser East, and Vancouver, which together totalled 457 deaths, according to the June 7th report.
Across BC, 98% of people perished indoors, 67% were over 70, and 56% lived alone, with the majority residing in homes without air conditioning in “socially or materially deprived neighbourhoods,” the report stated.
At the peak of the heat, 911 calls doubled, and the coroner’s service found a lag between heat alerts issued by Environment and Climate Change Canada and public agencies.
Paramedics attended 54% of deaths at an average of 10 minutes and 25 seconds; however, in 50 instances, they took 30 minutes or longer to arrive on scene. In six, callers were told that there was no ambulance available, the report says.
These findings prompted several recommendations from subject-matter experts, including implementing a coordinated provincial heat alert and response system (HARS).
The BC HARS system, launched on June 6th, will issue a Broadcast Intrusive alert for extreme heat emergencies through the national public alerting system and aims to ensure people across the province stay safe during future heat events.
Special weather statement issued for Greater Victoria
Sunshine, and heat, are kicking off the first official weekend of summer 2022.
Starting today (June 24th) through Sunday, June 28th, warmer-than-average temperatures expected for BC’s south coast may feel intensified compared to the past month’s cooler-than-normal temperatures.
Daytime temperatures will rise into the high 20s on Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast, prompting Environment Canada to issue a special weather statement on Wednesday, warning overnight lows will stay in the mid-teens.
The BC government is reminding people to keep themselves and others safe while pointing to its Extreme Heat Preparedness Guide, which shares tips on keeping cool, including taking cold showers and staying hydrated.
After last year’s “heat dome,” the City of Victoria introduced several new strategies to ensure public safety, including deploying a dozen misting stations. Found at key locations across town, select stations will be accompanied by shade tents, drinking water, and trained support staff.
According to Environment Canada, temperatures are expected to return to near-normal by mid-week as a cooler, unsettled air mass pushes onshore.