The Cowichan region hit an all-time temperature high of 41.9 C on Monday before the historic heat wave that has hit Vancouver Island began to slowly recede on Tuesday afternoon.
Devon, who asked that her last name not be used, had no air conditioning at home and had visited the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s cooling centre that was set up at the Cowichan Community Centre a couple of times earlier this week to get out of the intense heat.
“I started really feeling it,” Devon said as she relaxed in the air conditioned room at the CCC and drank water.
“It’s really hard to sleep at night, and my cat was suffering too. I feel so much better here.”
Environment Canada’s weather station in the Valley, which is located in Duncan, recorded a temperature of 39.2 C on Sunday, which beat the previous heat record of 33.1 for the region that was set in 2015 before temperatures went even higher on Monday.
The heat was so intense that a number of Cowichan businesses closed their doors to protect staff and the public.
Environment Canada meteorologist Terri Lang said the temperatures began gradually decreasing on Tuesday afternoon across Vancouver Island, and were expected to be in the more seasonal mid to high 20s beginning Wednesday and continuing through the week as the heat dome moved into the province’s interior and Alberta.
“It’s not forecast to cool right off in the Cowichan Valley and on the Island, but it will be less hot than last weekend,” she said.
“The wind had been coming off the land and that’s what caused the extremely high temperatures, but a marine surge began on Tuesday in which the wind started coming from the ocean, which led the temperatures to decrease somewhat.”
As for the long-rage forecast for the summer in the Cowichan Valley, Lang said that’s the million-dollar question as Environment Canada’s forecasts only predict for 10 days into the future.
“But, overall, it is supposed to be drier and warmer than average this summer, although that doesn’t mean we won’t get some rain,” she said.
Asked if the intense heat is indicative of climate change, Lang said Environment Canada can’t point to just one reason for the higher than normal temperatures.
“But the hot and dry weather is consistent with forecasts for global warming in which we can expect to see more extreme temperatures that will last for longer periods of time,” she said.
The intense heat led to another day of record-breaking electricity demand on BC Hydro’s system on Monday.
Monday night was the third consecutive night where the all-time summer peak hourly demand record, the hour during the day where customers use the most power, was broken.
BC Hydro said Monday night’s preliminary analysis shows demand reached 8,516 megawatts, shattering the record that was set before the heat wave began by more than 600 megawatts.
Adding 600 megawatts is the equivalent of turning on 600,000 portable air conditioners.
Peak load has been steadily increasing over the past week — with the first electricity record for the month of June falling on June 21.
Since then, all-time summer records have been broken three nights in a row; Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
As British Columbians have turned to air conditioners and fans to keep cool, the result has been unprecedented demand on BC Hydro’s system for the summertime.
In fact, electricity demand has been about 30 per cent higher during this heat wave than the average June day.
While some areas of the province have started to see temperatures decrease, demand for power is expected to remain above normal levels in the coming days.
Over the past few days, BC Hydro has also seen some localized outages on its system.
BC Hydro appreciates that any outage can be concerning, but even more so in this extreme heat.
“Customers can be assured that crews are on standby and working hard to restore power quickly,” the Crown corporation said in a press release.
“However, the intense heat is adding to what is already an inherently dangerous job for crews. They have to follow extra safety protocols, including shifting work away from the hottest hours of the day and working in shorter intervals, so in some cases power restoration is taking longer than normal.”
BC Hydro has also taken important steps to protect the safety of its customers and employees, including canceling the majority of planned outages as well as suspending disconnections for non-payment until the end of the heat wave.