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Province prepared as temperatures poised to surge in B.C., says emergency minister

Emergency Minister Ma does not anticipate ‘heat-dome scenario’ but province ready to issue alerts
The BC Coroners Service confirmed that 619 people died during the 2021 heat dome between June 25 and July 1. Provincial emergency official do not anticipate a heat dome scenario with temperatures expected to surge this week, but are able to respond if necessary. (Black Press Media file photo)

Temperatures aren’t expected to approach heat dome levels this week in B.C., but it is about to get hot, and the province says it is prepared.

Emergency Minister Bowinn Ma said the provincial government is ready to support communities and open cooling centres if needed as temperatures are expected to soar by the end of the week.

“At this time, Environment Canada is not anticipating (a) heat dome scenario, but elevated temperatures can still be a risk to human health,” Ma said Tuesday. Large parts of B.C.’s Interior are expected to see temperatures in the low-to-mid 30s, with parts of the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island hot on their heels.

Heat-domes are high-pressure weather systems that trap heat. One that occurred between June 25 and July 1, 2021 smashed temperatures records and caused 619 heat-related deaths in British Columbia.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Environment Canada has not yet issued any heat-related advisories beyond a special air quality statement for parts of central and northern B.C. Prince George, Stuart - Nechako, Cariboo (including Quesnel and Williams Lake), Yellowhead, McGregor, Williston, Peace and Fort Nelson regions are impacted or will be impacted by smoke for the next 24 to 48 hours as several wildfires are burning in B.C. and neighbouring Alberta.

But Ma said the rising temperatures could impact the wildfire situation, as well flooding in the Interior.

“If there is a significant risk to human health (from heat), we do have the ability to issue broadcast intrusive alerts, but at this time, our concern about the elevated temperatures (is the) impact on snowmelt, because it could increase flooding risk and (the) impact on wildfire risk as well,” she said.

Emergency officials yesterday said during a briefing that the flood risk has stabilized as rainfall was less than expected. But the province also issued a statement that the wildfire risk has increased while encouraging people to stay cool and hydrated.

“It is important that people keep themselves and others safe during warmer-than-average temperatures,” the statement reads.

BC Wildfire Service issued a statement Tuesday afternoon prohibiting open burning in the area covered by the Prince George Fire Centre effective noon May 11 (Thursday) until noon Oct. 15. The impacted area represents roughly a quarter of the entire province.

RELATED: 10 rural properties evacuated as Grand Forks flooding imminent

British Columbians will also receive an audible and visual reminder of the emergency infrastructure, when a nationwide test of Canada’s emergency alerting system will take place at 1:55 p.m. on Wednesday (May 10).

The test will broadcast an alert on radio and TV stations, as well as compatible cellphones. The message will read: “This is a TEST of the BC Emergency Alert system. This is ONLY a TEST. In an emergency, this message would provide safety information that could save your life. Click for more info: Again, this is ONLY a TEST. No action is required.”

In 2022, B.C. expanded the use of the National Public Alerting system beyond tsunami warnings to include imminent threats from floods, wildfires and extreme heat emergencies.


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Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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