‘Just a shake of the head’: Ottawa covered in unexpected May heat wave

Ottawans are breaking a sweat during a record-breaking stretch of May weather, though it may not last much longer.

Saturday was the fourth consecutive day of record highs in Ottawa, marking the longest streak of weather above 28 C before May 15 in the last 100 years.

While May temperatures have exceeded 30C before, a period of time like this has never happened this early, said David Phillips, senior climatologist at Environment Canada.

“This is something you would expect in the dog days of summer,” Phillips said on Saturday, when the temperature hit 90 degrees. “It’s just a head shake in terms of temperature.”

For some Ottawa residents strolling through ByWard Market, the warm temperatures have been a welcome change. Storefronts were packed and restaurant patios were packed as people took advantage.

“It feels like the middle of July,” public servant Jamie McDonald said.

People enjoy pedestrian space at Ottawa’s ByWard Market on May 11, 2022, the start of an unprecedented heat wave in the nation’s capital. (Ian Black/CBC)

Meanwhile, Victoria Westaway told the CBC she wasn’t prepared for the heat and hasn’t bought an air conditioner yet.

“There was snow in April, so [I] I just didn’t expect it to be this hot right now,” Westaway said, adding that she’s already experienced a sunburn, something she usually doesn’t get until later in the summer.

I’m not here to stay

Early heat waves can be especially uncomfortable, Phillips said, since people haven’t yet acclimated to summer temperatures.

That can lead to people experiencing shortness of breath and potentially needing medical attention, he said. In the worst cases, extreme heat can be deadly.

However, the warm weather may not be here to stay. Phillips said he anticipates a “cooler” in the coming week, with possible showers and thunderstorms.

According to Environment Canada, Tuesday’s high temperature sits at just shy of 11 C, with a decent chance of showers.

Despite the recent rise in temperatures, Phillips says he doesn’t expect the summer in Ottawa to be any hotter than usual.

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