Ottawa misses a heat record, but sets a humidex record
The thousands who thronged to the Hill for Canada Day walked into a weather record without knowing it — a high-humidex spell that is lasting far longer than a typical summer heat wave.
From noon to 3 p.m. on July 1, the humidex stood at 47, the stickiest humidex Ottawa has experienced since we started recording the index back in 1953. Gatineau reached 48 briefly that day.
We haven’t set heat records for any individual day. But the length of this hot spell — forecast to last seven days from last Friday through Thursday — is close to record-setting.
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“There was only one other occasion when there were seven days or more of temperatures above 32,” said David Phillips, senior climatologist for Environment Canada. That was in 1944, with eight straight days. (The records go back to 1938.)
There have also been three summers with five-day heat waves, most recently in 2001. Otherwise Ottawa usually suffers for a few days and moves on.
Not this time.
Canada Day missed being the hottest July 1 on record as measured by peak temperature, by a fraction of a degree. “But when you look at the average, morning noon and night, it was the hottest,” Phillips said. The average for the full 24 hours was 28.9.
The overnight low of 22.9 was the warmest on record for that date.
But it’s the humidity that strikes Phillips as the real news.
Canada Day “would be the highest humidex ever (any day) with records that go back to 1953 in the Ottawa area,” he said.
We have had eight hours in this heat wave with the humidex above 45, and that too is a record. Phillips makes the case that this may be the worst combination of heat and humidity in our recorded history.
“It’s hot, it’s around the clock, and it’s also the humidity, which is just record-breaking … You go on Parliament Hill and it clearly was unprecedented, I think.”
The paramedics were well aware of the Canada Day heat, picking up patients and handing out water bottles and even Popsicles.
“The major influx was Canada Day by far. This is where people really wanted to attend the celebrations,” said paramedic spokesman Marc-Antoine Deschamps. “It was extremely hot.
“It was a challenge even for our staff.”
Most of the Hill crowd came prepared with drinks, he said, but some people, despite their best efforts, still felt sick.
“Nothing life-threatening,” he said. It’s difficult to pin down exact numbers of people affected. If someone feels sick and dizzy this can result from many causes, not just the heat.
Still, there were at least 20 calls Monday that were attributed to heat exhaustion, and he said the Canada Day toll was higher.
The Shepherds of Good Hope shelter has laid in extra cases of water bottles — but was also surprised by a donor who showed up with another 32 cases on top of that. Other donors brought freezies and Popsicles. “Everybody was raving about that today (Tuesday),” said president Deirdre Freiheit.
Staff were making extra trips outside to check on people and deliver water. The shelter is relatively full, with about 260 people overnight.
Freiheit said the organization did checks last week on all its air-conditioning units. (Her own at home conked out a week earlier as a reminder.) And while the usual policy is to ask all the clients to leave during the day for cleaning, several indoor lounges were being opened up for those needing a cool break.
The surprise hit so far: Wet J-Cloths kept on ice, then handed out for people to wipe their faces and necks, which is a new and popular approach at the Shepherds.
“The thing about the individuals who are using our services is they are just so resilient,” she said.
The Log Farm on Cedarview Road closed Tuesday because of the heat, then had to defend its decision on Twitter.