Port Alberni is known for a lot of things. This week the central Vancouver Island city solidified its record of being the hottest place on Vancouver Island.
Port Alberni was one of a number of places in British Columbia that broke records while a “heat dome” sat itself over the Pacific Northwest. Lytton, B.C. had the dubious honour of becoming the hottest place in Canada—ever—with temperatures over 47 degrees Celsius.
#PortAlberni will break its all time high temperature of 41.7°C set July 10 1926. Records date to 1900. Current Temp at @ECCCWeatherBC Airport station: 42.2°C We don’t yet know how high it will go... In town, the breeze is keeping us just under the record. #BCheat cc:@JournoSusie pic.twitter.com/IwlgceI3Cx— Alberni Weather (@alberniweather) June 28, 2021
Port Alberni broke its all-time record of 41.7 degrees Celsius as of about 4 p.m. Monday, June 28, when the weather station at the Alberni Valley Regional Airport recorded 42.2 degrees Celsius with a humidex of 46. The old record was set July 10, 1926 at the former Beaver Creek station. Port Alberni records date back to 1900, says weather enthusiast Chris Alemany of AlberniWeather.ca.
“We’ve broken daily records, which isn’t hugely unusual,” he said Sunday night. “We’re coming up on our all-time forever record.”
Port Alberni set a record on Saturday, June 26 with 38.9 degrees Celsius that hadn’t been seen since 2006. On Sunday, June 27 the city recorded 41.3 degrees Celsius, breaking the old record of 37 degrees Celsius set in 2015.
The old Beaver Creek station recorded temperatures from a farm on Bayne Road from 1900 until 1959 (“It started recording precipitation in 1894,” Alemany said). The weather station was moved to the Robertson Creek Fish Hatchery west of the city for a few years, then the Somass Estuary, where the former Alberni airport was located. It stayed there for a couple of decades before moving to its present site at the Alberni Valley Regional Airport in 1993.
On Vancouver Island, communities with broken heat records included Port Hardy, Campbell River, Comox Valley, Nanaimo, Duncan and Victoria.
“I think the biggest thing is what ties this into climate change,” Alemany said. “How widespread the heat has been; it’s not just Port Alberni, not just Vancouver Island, not even just B.C. It’s a massive heat wave all over the Pacific Northwest. It’s serious stuff.”
Vancouver Island already had a small heat wave in late April with temperatures reaching above 30 degrees Celsius. Alemany said it wasn’t surprising given Environment Canada forecast a hotter than usual summer. But “hotter than usual” means five or six degrees above normal.
“This is a very extreme pattern.”
Port Albernians were doing everything they could to keep cool: Cameron and Sproat lakes were busy spots, as were the city’s three splash parks. Many restaurants, coffee shops and other businesses closed for the day to protect their employees from the heat.
The City of Port Alberni opened Echo Centre community centre as a cooling station Monday morning, vowing to keep it open until 9 p.m.
The Bread of Life was open extended hours as a cooling centre, and Kuu-us Crisis Line Society did the same throughout the weekend.
The Salvation Army’s emergency response food truck handed out water and other hot-weather supplies and made an extra patrol.
Other volunteer groups also patrolled areas popular with Port Alberni’s homeless population and handed out water to anyone who needed it.