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Heat wave sizzles in eastern Canada


The beach has been a popular place this week
The beach has been a popular place this week

Lyndsay Morrison, staff writer

July 9, 2010 — Temperatures were soaring into the mid thirties all week across Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes. Here's a breakdown of what you need to know in that kind of heat.

Heat, humidity and smog warnings in effect
Heat, humidity and smog warnings in effect

It's the type of weather that had air conditioners buzzing, beach-goers thrilled and emergency workers on alert. Temperatures across Ontario, Quebec and parts of the Maritimes were scorching this week, climbing to 35 degrees in some places. Factor in the humidity, and it was feeling more like the low 40's.

Thursday was another “Triple H” day across the provinces: hot, hazy and humid. Ambulances in Toronto have been receiving 51 per cent more complaints about breathing problems compared to the same time last year. EMS officials say that fainting calls have climbed 39 per cent and that overall ambulance calls has jumped 13 per cent since 2009.

Here's a breakdown of what you need to know when a heat wave strikes.

THE HEAT AND HUMIDITY

Medical officials in most cities say that those at risk of heat-related illnesses include the elderly, very young children, and people who are physically exerting themselves outdoors. They recommend that residents drink plenty of water, avoid the sun when it's at its strongest, turn on the air conditioning to stay cool and avoid heavy meals or sugary drinks.

Tanya Elliot is with the Canadian Red Cross. She describes the symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

“Things like dizziness, feeling weak, feeling hot. If you or somebody you are with is feeling that way or if they become faint at all then it's definitely time to consider calling 911.”

Residents are encouraged to check on seniors or neighbours when it's stifling hot outside.

Power demand has increased due to the heat
Power demand has increased due to the heat

SMOG

In addition to the heat and humidity, people across the region often deal with elevated levels of pollution during a heat wave. Anyone with asthma, respiratory ailments or heart disease are often the most affected by the hazy conditions. People are encouraged to help spare the air by taking public transit or car pooling to work.

UV INDEX

In the summer months, most Canadians understand the importance of skin protection. However, in these types of sweltering conditions, people don't always recognize just how strong the sun's rays are. This week, the UV reading for the city of Toronto was rated 10: very high.

Dr. Cheryl Rosen is the national director of the Canadian Dermatology Association's Sun Awareness Program and head of the Division of Dermatology at Toronto Western Hospital. She says sunscreen is a must-have during a heat wave.

“We talk about a lot of other methods of sun protection such as hats, clothing, seeking shades, etc.but the truth is, people are going to be out all day long, with their skin uncovered. Sunscreens have been proven to prevent DNA damage, wrinkling, and cold-sores. And so they're the best bet; sunscreens are the best we've got.”

POWER CONSUMPTION

This week's heat wave put so much pressure on the power grid that the province of Ontario surpassed its expected peak energy consumption levels.

On Monday, the grid was put to the test in Toronto. At one point, large sections of the city were left without power for close to three hours. Alexandra Campbell is with the IESO in Ontario. She says they have enough supply in the province to meet this week's demands.

“Equipment can always fail, so you can never say there would never be a blackout, but certainly it's not going to be because we don't have enough power available,” explains Campbell. “Demand will climb each day because you have a lot of hot days in a row ... air conditioners have to work even harder.”

WHERE CAN I FIND MORE INFORMATION

For current updates on the weather forecast where you live, you can always check our Canadian Cities Forecast. We also recommend tuning into The Weather Network on TV for our extensive coverage of the heat and humidity across eastern Canada.

With files from Andrea Stockton and Jill Colton.

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