By Moira Warburton
VANCOUVER (Reuters) – Lightning strikes in western Canada in the past two days increased tenfold compared to the same time last year, triggered in part by an unprecedented heat wave, forecasters said, warning of more strikes over the past two days. Over the weekend they could increase fanning wildfires fanned by high winds.
More than 710,000 lightning strikes were recorded in British Columbia and western Alberta between 3 p.m. Wednesday and 6 a.m. Thursday, up from an average of 8,300 for the same period over the past five years, said Chris Vagasky, a Vaisala meteorologist, a global environmental agency. measurement company that collects the data.
The Pacific province of British Columbia has been reeling from the grip of an unprecedented heat wave, which has so far caused 719 confirmed deaths, triple what would normally occur in the same time frame, the chief coroner of the province.
During the heat wave, the city of Lytton broke Canada’s 80+ year heat record with a temperature of 49.6 ° C (121.28 ° F). A wildfire that started Wednesday tore Lytton to the ground, causing two deaths. The cause of the fire was under investigation.
British Columbia typically accounts for about 5% of Canada’s total electric shocks each year, but has reported its annual number in less than 48 hours, Vagasky said.
The figure is comparable to “what you would normally see on some of the biggest lightning days in really lightning-prone regions of the United States, like Texas or Oklahoma,” Vagasky said, and it’s unheard of for a region like British Columbia. .
The large amount of lightning was caused in part by the heat wave, which created high levels of humidity in the atmosphere in the form of melting snow and evaporation of water from vegetation, said Jonathan Bau, a meteorologist at Environment and Climate Change Canada.
The humidity fueled the unusually fierce storms.
“We are not in the middle of the summer where everything has dried up,” Bau said, adding that more lightning was forecast for the weekend.
The attacks caused several wildfires in central British Columbia, with 136 fires burning as of Friday afternoon, BC officials said in a briefing.
The fires are expected to burn 100,000 hectares (247,105 acres) by the end of the weekend, authorities said, a figure significantly higher than at this point in previous years: BC doesn’t typically see its wildfire season increase until the end of July.
More than 1,300 homes have been ordered evacuated and it is not known how many people are missing. The Red Cross has a phone line for family reunification, authorities said.
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