Residents turn to outdoors for heat relief
By: By Megan Sarrazin
| Posted: Wednesday, Jul 11, 2012 06:00 am
Local hardware and big box stores now have empty shelves where fans and air-conditioning units once sat, thanks to record-breaking temperatures this week.
The mercury climbed to 33.1 C Monday, with high temperatures expected to continue throughout the week, according to The Weather Network.
The hot temperatures are sending people into a frantic panic to get their hands on air-conditioning units and fans — so much so that most St. Albert stores have little, if any, left.
Home Depot manager Kelly Ferenac said portable air conditions are the most in-demand items and the store sold out of those units on Sunday.
“We do have fans and we do have some window air conditioners, but no portable air conditioners,” she said.
Walmart shelves are stocked with just four-inch fans, an item not cutting it for most customers, said a store manager who did not want her name used.
She said the store sold out of product on Monday and has placed rush orders and hopes to see more stock for the weekend.
“Everybody is coming in looking for fans,” she said, adding pools are also a hot item to beat the heat.
A handful of other hardware stores reported empty shelves and said they are working towards getting more fans and air conditioning units into stores.
The average high in St. Albert for the month of July is 22.5 C, according to The Weather Network.
Residents who managed to get their hands on an air conditioner or fan are putting them to good use.
The Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) directed EPCOR Monday to implement rolling outages throughout the Edmonton region to curtail the increase in energy consumption.
“Higher than average temperatures have pushed the demand for electricity in Alberta to record highs and some generation is unable to supply energy to the grid,” said the AESO press release. “The hot and humid weather has increased demand for electricity primarily due to the higher use of air conditioning and irrigation systems.”
AESO said that at 2 p.m. Monday Alberta hit an all-time summer high for consumption of 9,885 megawatts. The previous high was 9,552 megawatts on July 18, 2011.
EPCOR responded with rolling outages in several Edmonton neighbourhoods, avoiding those with hospitals and emergency services.
Fortis Alberta provides power to the majority of the province, including St. Albert, and was forced to implement outages to assist AESO with system capacity, said Jennifer MacGowan, director of corporate communications.
There were no reports of St. Albert neighbourhoods being hit by the outages.
Specific numbers weren’t yet available for Fortis Alberta’s power consumption on Monday, although MacGowan said she expected to see an increase.
“My best guess is that there would be an increase because of increased consumption of air conditioners, fans and the like,” she said.
The company has planned outages for many municipalities in its coverage zone, although St. Albert is not yet listed as having planned power interruptions.
“We do have planned outages, but they’re just part of our normal operations and maintenance practices,” she said, adding it is not a result of over-consumption.
MacGowan said customers are notified 72 hours in advance of these planned outages.
Some residents are taking to the outdoors to soak up the heat and seek relief.
“It’s just so hot. People are just looking for a place to cool down and you kind of want to be outside too because it’s so nice,” said Sharleen Edwards, St. Albert’s aquatic services manager.
Two popular outdoor facilities saw a dramatic spike in usage, with the Woodlands Water Play Park attracting 2,098 people Monday compared to 122 the same day last year. Grosvenor Park Outdoor Pool had 647 visitors compared to 68 the year prior.
“Grosvenor, because it’s a little smaller, a little older and tucked away in one of our neighbourhoods, what I like about when it’s hot is that people remember that it’s there and they go there and really enjoy their time,” Edwards said.
Health officials are cautioning people to take precautions to prevent heat related illnesses. Before this current heat wave hit, Alberta Health Services had suggested people wear light coloured clothing – long sleeves and pants – sunglasses and hats and use plenty of sunscreen with APF of at least 30.
To prevent heat related illness and keep cool while exercising, AHS recommended:
Avoid exercising at the hottest times of the day, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Dress appropriately in shorts, loose-fitting, light coloured T-shirt, and a wide-brimmed hat.
Drink 8 to 10 ounces of fluid before exercise and every 15 minutes while exercising and then again after exercise.
Seek shade whenever possible.
Decrease your pace to decrease the amount of stress on your body.
Do not drink only water; drink a variety of fluids such as orange juice, tomato juice, or sport drinks.