In late June, northwestern Canada was hit by a severe heat wave. The province of British Columbia was particularly hard hit. Recklinghausen’s Hannah Steinfels lives there.
Canada, the land of national parks, lakes and unique wildlife, has been the focus of worrying headlines for days. A week and a half ago, residents were hit by the scorching heat, which has subsided a bit since then. The province of British Columbia is particularly hard hit. Hannah Steinfels, born in Recklinghausen, lives there, more precisely on the corresponding island of Vancouver Island. And the drop of sweat bothers him too.
About three and a half years ago, the now 23-year-old had gone to her maternal home with her boyfriend. After completing her teacher training course, she is now in the midst of her legal clerkship, which has been postponed by a few months due to the pandemic. She also teaches German and English as a foreign language teacher and works as a saleswoman in a small shop.
The “heat dome” stores the heat
But back to the headlines: “The heat was caused by a so-called ‘heat dome,’ a high pressure area that holds hot air under a type of dome,” explains Hannah Steinfels. The heat dome ensured that the temperature rose by leaps and bounds. “We have been warned of heat for a week and a half.” According to media reports, the highest measured temperature was recorded at 48.6 °C in Lytton, a 250-dwelling village located about 250 km northeast of Vancouver.
“Our temperature was 42 degrees for a few days. This is very unusual for the region, especially in June. The average temperature is otherwise around 20 degrees. Usually in June it rains a lot and it is cold here,” reports the 23-year-old.
Heat hit Canadians unprepared
And precisely because these temperatures are so unusual, Canadians didn’t fully prepare for them. “Many buildings in the Pacific Northwest don’t have air conditioning.” There isn’t even Hannah Steinfels at home. “So because of the heat warning we got an air conditioner, fans and reflective insulation material. Still, we measured up to 35 degrees in our apartment,” says the Recklinghausen native.
“Since the day was even hotter, we went for a swim on the beach in the evening. We went for a walk with our dog early in the morning and late in the evening. At lunch we took him so that he would not burn his paws on the asphalt.”
At least 719 heat-related deaths reported
Many residents are heavily affected by the heat dome. “Unfortunately, this has caused many heat strokes and heat-related deaths,” reports the young woman. Several media outlets now consistently report at least 719 people who died suddenly. Then there are the many wildfires, apparently triggered by multiple lightning strikes. There are more than 180 wildfires in the province of British Columbia. Lytton was almost completely destroyed by fire.
“The risk of wildfire is very high across the province,” says the 23-year-old. Heavy smoke from the fires that engulfed cities in the Northeast may already be moving toward Vancouver Island. “We’ll probably get even more out of this in the next few days.” According to media reports, the fire is yet to be brought under control. The province will now receive air support from the military for two weeks.
A special natural spectacle will also present itself. “Smoking makes a very bright sunset.” In the meantime it has cooled down a bit. “Now it’s 30 degrees here. A little cold, but still unusually hot.”