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

Ottawans are sweating through a record-breaking period of weather in May, though it may not last much longer.

Saturday was Ottawa’s fourth consecutive record-breaking day, marking the longest season of weather above 28°C before May 15 in the last 100 years.

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

“This is something you would expect on dog days of summer,” Phillips said Saturday, as the temperature hit 31°C. “It’s just a head shake in terms of temperature.”

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

“It looks like mid-July,” said civil servant Jamie McDonald.

People enjoy a pedestrian space at Ottawa’s ByWard Market on May 11, 2022, the start of a record-breaking period 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 super hot right now,” Westaway said, adding that she’s already suffered a sunburn – something she doesn’t usually get until late summer.

not here to stay

The first heat waves can be especially uncomfortable, Phillips said, as people aren’t yet acclimated to summer temperatures.

This can lead to people experiencing shortness of breath and potentially needing medical attention, he said. In worst-case scenarios, extreme heat can be deadly.

Hot weather probably isn’t here to stay, though. Phillips said he anticipates a “cooling off” next week, with possible showers and thunderstorms.

According to Environment Canada, Tuesday’s high is at just 11C, with a decent chance of rain.

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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