Abbotsford may see its drought levels climb with a dry and hot spell in the region expected to continue for weeks, potentially carrying into August.
The city is already on a drought level two, according to the Province of B.C.’s drought information portal, but Environment Canada meteorologist Matt MacDonald said that could rise further.
“I wouldn’t be surprised to see watering restrictions put into place in the coming weeks,” MacDonald said.
Currently, the city is already under the annual stage one water restrictions, which are in effect each year from May 1 to Sept. 30 and restrict lawn sprinkling to twice a week – only in mornings – and “promote water efficient practices.”
But MacDonald said the current hot and dry streak – with temperatures currently around 10 degrees C higher than the average for this time of year, incurring a heat advisory from Environment Canada – could spell a bump in current restrictions.
“Currently we’re on level two of four (drought) in the south coast, here, and most areas in the province are one or two. But, again, I wouldn’t be surprised, given the lack of rain here in the coming weeks, that it go up to (level) three for some areas,” MacDonald said.
Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun said the potential for amping up watering restrictions for the city were “slim to none,” with the primary indicator being the levels of Dickson Lake north of Mission.
“We’ve had significant snowpack, so the Dickson Lake water level is at 93 per cent, I think, as of last week. So it’s almost full,” Braun said. “Where we run into problems is when we don’t get winter rains and very little snow.”
But Braun added that a prolonged heat wave could have some impact.
“When you get mid-30- or 30-degree-plus weather, people are using water just to cool off the kids or whatever, and of course the gardens need more water,” Braun said.
The Abbotsford area has had a bit of a hot spell since the weekend, with Saturday’s temperature of 33.1 C setting a new record for that day of the year, toppling the 32.1 C record set in 1996, MacDonald said.
Similarly, Abbotsford hit 31.6 C on Sunday and 32.2 C on Monday, both falling around two degrees C under records for those days.
The current heat wave is still well below the all-time high for Abbotsford, at 38 C during the 2009 heat wave.
“This current little mini heat wave is noteworthy, but it’s not a record-breaking (heat wave). Yesterday we only broke one record across the province and that was in Whistler,” MacDonald said Tuesday. “We’re just barely breaking records, if at all, and then a lot of stations are flirting with records.”
What’s missing from this heat wave, MacDonald said, is that the heat event has not endured like past heat waves, with this week’s wave cresting for a few days over the weekend. Temperatures are expected to drop to mid-20s from Wednesday to Saturday, before hitting a spike on Sunday.
MacDonald said Environment Canada tends to hear back from residents questioning the need for a heat advisory. But a 2010 study showed that temperatures in excess of 29 C in the day and with lows exceeding 16 C at night for two consecutive days are about when negative health effects start to crop up.
“We just barely got there with this heat event,” he said.
“The intent, again, with these heat warnings is to kind of remind people, particularly those at risk – which are young infants, elderly, pregnant women, anyone with any underlying medical conditions – to just kind of take it easy. Try and stay out of the sun in the peak hours. … Just stay hydrated. A lot of people don’t feel thirsty, but the importance (is) to drink water regularly, and just watch out for some of the symptoms of heat-related illness.”
That includes swelling, heat rash, cramps and feeling dizzy or fainting.