Commentary – In the heat of summer

Richard Froese

When plans to open up Alberta from COVID-19 restrictions were announced in June, Premier Jason Kenney had one phrase to describe it.

He called it a plan to have “the best summer ever” when restrictions dropped on July 1.

Leading up to that date, it looked like it could be the hottest summer ever, even by oldtimers’ memory.

Albertans look forward to the warm days of summer after about five months of cold, damp weather when temperatures dipped below -30 C in the deep of winter. They long for the two or three months of warm temperatures around 30 C.

Some people welcome the hot temperatures when it exceeds 30 C, while not many are fond of the weather when it soars to 35-40 C. Temperatures hovered around 30-40 C from June 25 to July 2 over most of Alberta and British Columbia.

As much as people appreciate the warm weather, too hot and too long is just too much.

The toll on disaster and danger is significantly higher in summer than in winter.

I would rather have temperatures of – 30 C than 30 C.

When warm temperatures reach a certain point for a long time, it becomes unhealthy and unsafe.

Summer is more destructive, damaging, dangerous and deadly than any other time of the year.

Just think about how the weather with record high temperatures has impacted life in the past month. The heat wave in the last week of June was considered more dangerous than the COVID-19 pandemic that has been around since March 2020. At least 486 sudden deaths were reported in B.C. in a five-day period during the heat wave in June.

That number exceeds the death rate for COVID-19 at any time during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, rates of sudden death in winter are far below that figure.

Is this global warming in action? It could mean hotter and longer dry spells and drought during summer in the years to come.

Wildfires and tornados are alive and at their peak in summer. Images of communities in forested areas destroyed by wildfires are becoming all too familiar. Just ask people who lived in the Slave Lake wildfire in 2011, in Fort McMurray in 2016 or in the High Level area in 2019. Several hundred people lost their homes and possessions, along with many businesses, in a wildfire in Lytton, B.C. in 2021.

Many other B.C. communities have also been victimized by wildfires in the past several years.

In the past several years, except for 2020, a community somewhere in Alberta or B.C. is wiped out in a wildfire.

Summer is also tornado season. Many may remember when a tornado killed 27 people in Edmonton on July 31, 1987. Some will not forget a tornado that killed 12 people at a campground at Pine Lake near Red Deer on July 14, 2000.

How many communities in Canada have been destroyed in winter by some sort of natural disaster in the past two decades?

Summer is the growing season for farmers. Yet, a tornado, hailstorm, grasshoppers, drought or flood can crush or kill a crop in minutes, along with the hopes of producers to harvest a healthy crop and paycheque.

Risks in the outdoors also rises as people often take their own lives into their hands in the water, while driving off-highway vehicles, hiking or mountain climbing.

Extensive heat also kills fish in lakes, rivers, and streams.

Sure, winter has its challenges, but the death toll and destruction is not as tragic.

Enjoy summer and be safe. Cooler days will soon return.

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