Some relief to this week’s heat wave in the Lower Mainland may come from an unexpected source – the wildfires currently burning in B.C.’s Interior.
High pressure air is pushing smoke from the fires eastward toward a low-pressure system hanging over the Pacific and partially blocking out the sun in the eastern Fraser Valley, according to an Environment Canada meteorologist.
Cindy Yu said the particulate matter in the smoke is already elevated in Hope, Agassiz and Chilliwack and is likely to push farther west in the coming days.
“That has an impact on our temperatures,” she said. “The layer of smoke tends to act similar to a layer of cloud – it’s blocking the sun.”
Environment Canada has adjusted its forecasts for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday by one or two degrees, she said, and depending on how smokey the skies become in coming days, those temperatures could drop further.
But predicting the smoke concentration is difficult as that depends on humidity, winds and the behaviour of several forest fires currently burning in B.C.
The forecast still calls for temperatures to hit as high as 32 C on Tuesday and 35 C on both Thursday and Friday.
Yu said the high temperatures and particulate matter in the air could pose significant concurrent health risks, particularly for the young and elderly.
In Abbotsford, the city has set up cooling stations at both Abbotsford and Matsqui Recreation Centres with air-conditioned rooms and water available to any resident in need.
Jesse Wegenast, a pastor with The 5 and 2 Ministries has been coordinating with various local organizations to make sure Abbotsford’s vulnerable populations have access to water during the heat wave. He said every year he sees homeless people end up in hospital with heat exhaustion and other heat-related issues when the mercury rises.
He said water will be available from or handed out by the Salvation Army, 5 and 2, Lookout Shelter, Fraser Valley Regional Library locations, Positive Living, Fraser Health’s inter-angency care team, Cyrus Centre, SARA for Women and the Abbotsford Police bike patrol unit.
Looking forward, Yu said the low pressure system over the ocean could push inland as early as Monday and bring relieving rain, as well as thunderstorms, with the potential of starting more fires.