Lightning strikes 10 times in Canada, causing wildfires

Lightning strikes in western Canada have increased nearly tenfold in the past two days from the same time a year ago, triggered in part by a record-breaking heat wave, meteorologists said, warning of more strikes over the weekend that could fuel wildfires further. strong wind.

More than 710,000 lightning strikes were recorded in British Columbia and western Alberta between 3 p.m. Wednesday and 6 a.m. Thursday, an increase from an average of 8,300 over the same period over the past five years, said Chris Vagasky, a meteorologist at Vaisala, a global environmental organization. measurement company that collects the data.

The Pacific province of British Columbia is recovering from the grip of an unprecedented heat wave that has caused 719 confirmed deaths so far, tripling what would normally happen during the same period, the province’s chief medical officer said Friday.

During the heat wave, the city of Lytton broke Canada’s more than 80-year-old heat record with a temperature of 49.6°C (121.28°F). A bushfire that started Wednesday razed Lytton to the ground, causing two deaths. The cause of the fire was investigated.

British Columbia usually accounts for about 5% of Canada’s total relief attacks each year, but it has reported its annual number in less than 48 hours, Vagasky said.

The figure is comparable to “what you’d normally see on some of the larger lightning days in really lightning-prone regions of the United States, like Texas or Oklahoma,” Vagasky said, and is unheard of for a region like British Columbia.

The high number of lightning strikes was partly caused by the heat wave, which caused high levels of moisture in the atmosphere in the form of snowmelt and evaporation of water from vegetation, said Jonathan Bau, a meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada.

The moisture fueled the unusually fierce thunderstorms.

“We are not in the middle of summer where everything has dried up,” Bau said, adding that more lightning was forecast for the weekend.

The strikes sparked several wildfires in central British Columbia, with 136 fires as of Friday afternoon, BC officials said at a briefing.

The fires are expected to burn 100,000 hectares (247,105 acres) by the end of the weekend, officials said, a significantly higher figure than at this point in previous years — BC usually doesn’t see the wildfire season pick up until late July.

More than 1,300 homes have been evacuated and it is unknown how many people are missing. The Red Cross operates a telephone line for family reunification, officials said.

(REUTERS)

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