Swathes of the United States and Canada endured record-setting heat on Sunday, forcing schools and Covid-19 testing centers to close and the suspension of an Olympic athletics qualifying event, with forecasters warning of worse to come.
The village of Lytton in British Columbia broke the record for Canada’s all-time high, with a temperature of 46.6 degrees Celsius (116 Fahrenheit), said Environment Canada.
And in Eugene, Oregon, a temperature of 43.3 degrees Celsius (110 degrees Fahrenheit) forced organisers to postpone the final day of the US Olympic track and field trials, moving afternoon events to the evening.
Because of climate change, record-setting temperatures are becoming more frequent. Globally, the decade to 2019 was the hottest recorded, and the five hottest years have all occurred within the last five years.
On Sunday in Seattle, Washington state, the temperature hit 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), a record that surprised residents not used to warmer climes.
“Normally it’s probably like, maybe 60, 70 degrees (Fahrenheit) is a great day, everybody is outside in shorts and T-shirts, but this is like — this is ridiculous,” one city resident told AFP. “I feel like I’m in the desert or something.”
Another said: “You just stand around and you’re like — you can’t breathe, it’s so hot.”
Doug Farr, manager of the city’s weekly Ballard Farmers Market, said the site had to close early Sunday because of the heat — something it normally only has to do for snow.
“I think this is the first time we’ve ever closed early because of the heat,” he said.
Oregon’s biggest city, Portland, hit 44.4 degrees Celsius (112 degrees Fahrenheit) Sunday, the US National Weather Service (NWS) said, breaking the city’s record set a day earlier.
Across the border in Canada, stores reportedly sold out of portable air conditioners and fans, while cities opened emergency cooling centers and outreach workers handed out bottles of water and hats.
Several Covid-19 vaccination clinics were canceled and schools announced they would close on Monday.