Vernon smashed its 2008 heat record of 38.8 Celsius when the mercury boiled over 44.2 C Tuesday, June 29.
But that’s still cooler than the country’s hot spot of Lytton, which set another new national high at 49.6 C.
The province has been baking in a historic and deadly heat wave that has shattered records all week.
B.C.’s chief coroner Lisa Lapointe confirmed Wednesday a significant increase in reported deaths since the heat wave began.
The Coroners Service would normally receive approximately 130 reports of death over a four-day period.
“Between Friday and 1 p.m. today, at least 486 sudden and unexpected deaths have been reported to our agency.”
BC Emergency Health Services responded to 81 heat-related calls in the Interior Health Authority between Friday, June 25, and Monday morning, June 28.
For comparison, last June BCEHS responded to 14 calls across the province, this year that number sits at 534.
The heat dome, Environment Canada meteorologist Bobby Sekhon said, is caused by a strong ridge of high pressure that traps warm air underneath it.
Ridges of high pressure create hot spells in B.C. most years, he said, but they typically happen in July or August. This year’s ridge is much stronger and earlier than usual.
Vernon organizations were quick to coordinate efforts to ensure everyone living rough or experiencing homelessness was able to access clean, cool water, showers and seek relief indoors at cooling stations.
The Vernon branch of the Okanagan Regional Library kept its doors open on Sunday, June 27, as between 200 and 250 people took advantage of the air-conditioned haven, City of Vernon staff said in an update to council.
It will remain open on Canada Day as well between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.
The city opened Kal Tire Place as a pet-friendly cooling centre thanks to donations from the Vernon BC SPCA. It’s open between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. daily for the duration of the heat wave.
Armstrong opened its curling club as a cooling station, the Enderby spray park is open daily and the Evangelical Chapel on Mill Avenue is open to residents, the Splatsin Community Centre is open to band members and the Okanagan Indian Band opened two Elders cooling centres at New Horizons and Head of the Lake Hall.
Donations of water and sports drink can be made at the Upper Room Mission (250-549-1231) and Cammy LaFleur Outreach Clinic (250-938-3518).
The clinic will also act as a cooling and water station Monday-Friday, between 1 and 3 p.m. Showers are available Thursday, from 9-11 a.m.
“My suggestion to people who want to help is to donate to outreach services or bring cold water and Gatorade to the park – being mindful of COVID precautions,” said Alison Houweling, manager of education and community programs with Turning Points Collaborative Society.
Cold drinks, snacks and supplies are also being handed out as TPCS does its outreach – alternating in Polson Park and downtown – between 6:30 and 10 p.m.
Houweling said it’s important to stay hydrated and seek shady spots.
Anyone feeling symptoms of heatstroke should seek medical attention.
The heat got to the business community as well. Many Greater Vernon and area businesses, especially restaurants, were forced to close, adjust hours or change menus as it was too hot in the kitchens.
Vernon North Okanagan RCMP said they haven’t attended any sudden deaths or heat-related calls amid the heat wave.
“We encourage everyone to do what they can to stay cool, to make use of the available cooling centres if necessary and to look out for one another,” said RCMP media relations officer Const. Chris Terleski.
Temperatures are forecast to drop over the next few days after Wednesday’s high of 44 C.
– with Canadian Press files