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Heat warnings cover most of B.C. as records set and risk of heat stress rises

Ongoing heat warnings cover most of British Columbia, and Environment Canada says the sweltering conditions have toppled more than a dozen daily temperature records.

Fourteen records were set around the province on Tuesday, from Prince Rupert to Bella Bella, Ashcroft and across the Fraser Valley and South Coast.

The oldest record to fall was in the Agassiz area of the Fraser Valley, where the mercury hit 36.5 C, almost one degree higher than the previous record set in 1899.

B.C. also claimed the top seven hottest locations in the country on Tuesday, including Lytton, which was the hot spot in Canada at 40.2 C.

It’s the first time this year that B.C. has officially seen the heat climb above 40 C, although the scorcher was not a record for Lytton, which set the country’s all-time high temperature of 49.6 C last year, one day before a wildfire destroyed the village.

In addition to heat warnings of temperatures up to 41 C for much of the central and southern Interior and conditions only slightly cooler elsewhere in B.C., the weather office is maintaining air quality advisories for eastern parts of Metro Vancouver, the lower Fraser Valley and the Fraser Canyon.

Forecasters say sunlight is reacting with pollutants to create high concentrations of ground-level ozone east of Vancouver, potentially causing breathing difficulties for pregnant people, children, outside workers or anyone with conditions such as lung disease or asthma.

Potential for heat stress

According to WorkSafe B.C., more than a third of heat stress-related claims last year came from people who are working indoors. It is advising people to stay cool, hydrated and out of the direct sun this week.

“Last year, WorkSafe B.C. accepted 115 claims from workers related to heat stress. That’s a 180 per cent increase in claims from each of the three previous years,” WorkSafe B.C. senior Manager Suzana Prpic said on the CBC’s The Early Edition.

A range of people lay down on towels in a grassy area. Some of them are shirtless.
Parks and beaches in Vancouver filled quickly with temperatures in the area creeping up to 30 C. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

She said employers should ensure workers are provided a cool-down room with working air conditioning and personal protective equipment like heat reflective clothing or water-cooled suits.

“Look to see if the job can be done in a cooler environment,” she said.

Environment Canada says air conditions, especially over eastern Metro Vancouver, likely won’t improve until after the weekend.

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