Nicole Rodgers of Mr. Tubbs Ice Cream Parlor in Saanich serves up a waffle cone of espresso flake ice cream. This week’s heat wave has meant brisk business for the iconic ice cream store. Wolfgang Depner / News Staff

Saanich swelters in grips of heat wave

The heat wave that has broiled Saanich since Tuesday bears both opportunities and burdens for a wide range of people.

“I’m busy,” said Jessie Cessford, assistant manager at Mr. Tubbs Ice Cream Parlor, the iconic Saanich store that offers ice cream and vintage games. Some 70 people are buying ice cream or hanging out in the air-conditioned arcade as she speaks with the Saanich News Tuesday afternoon and Cessford expects that the coming days will not be any different. “I expect it to be fairly busy.”

And potentially a bit hazy after Environment Canada issued a smoky skies bulletin for Greater Victoria and other areas due to wildfires.

“The current weather pattern over the B.C. coast is causing outflow winds to carry smoke from wildfires burning in the B.C. Interior towards the coast,” Environment Canada said in the release. “Smoke concentrations will vary widely as winds, fire behaviour and temperatures change.” This release appeared 24 hours after Environment Canada issued a special weather statement advising that daytime highs will reach the 30s in the Fraser Valley, Howe Sound, Whistler and Inland Vancouver Island.

If rising ice-cream sales might speak to the sweeter side-effects of the heat wave that has gripped Greater Victoria, it is a period of increased vigilance for others.

Take the Veterans Memorial Lodge at Broadmead, a 225-bed multi-level care facility. Laurie Macdonald, director of support services, and Jim Oldnall, director of clinical programs, have been preparing for this eventuality for months under the facility’s heat protocol.

“You are starting to think about hot weather and temperatures in April and May, because you know they are coming,” said Macdonald.

Specifically, it means making sure that residents drink plenty of fluids, said Macdonald. Other measures include minimizing outdoor activity, said Oldnall.

These comments speak to the reality that the heat might be more dangerous for some groups. “Although anyone at any time can suffer from heat-related illness, some people are at greater risk than others,” Vancouver Island Health Authority said in a release. They include among others infants and young children, and people aged 65 or older.

“Check in on those who live alone,” it read. “Visit adults at risk at least twice a day and closely watch them for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Infants and young children need much more frequent watching.”

VIHA is also asking residents to stay hydrated and stay inside, an option not available to individuals, who work outdoors in industries like construction, agriculture and tourism. While sweating cools down the human body, it might not suffice in high temperatures, leading to heat stress. It can then lead to heat disorders, whose health effects could be serious, if not deadly. They range from heat cramp to heat exhaustion and heat stroke, leading to cardiac arrest. Rising temperatures therefore threaten not just vulnerable human populations likely the elderly or very young, but also workers.

Overall, heat waves offer a mixed blessing for the economy. Consider retailers. Bill Shields, hardware and housewares department manager for Canadian Tire on Hillside Road, said heat waves spike sales of air-conditioning units, fans and other outdoor toys that might help people cool down. “It is quite noticeable,” he said.

Shields – who has worked for Canadian Tires nearly four decades – has also noticed that his company has over the years progressively increased its available inventory for these products. Drawing on year-to-year sales data and local knowledge, stores have been able to stock ahead, said Shields. “We kind of knew it was coming,” he said.

Preparation and planning is also the name of the game for Scott Krafte, co-owner of Saanich’s Accutemp Refrigeration Air Conditioning & Heating Ltd.

“It gets quite busy [during heat waves],” he said. “The hotter it gets, the harder the equipment works.”

Should it fail, food-related industries might be looking at losing product worth millions of dollars through spoilage, he said.

Accordingly, Krafte has developed an around-the-clock response plan that prioritizes businesses in the food-related industry.

He has also noticed how the trend towards higher temperatures has changed purchasing behaviour. Heat pumps have become more popular as home owners look to cut cooling costs during the summer and heating costs during the winter over the long run. More short-term, air-conditioning sales spike during heat waves. “If you can’t sleep, it is tough to go to work,” said Krafte.

While Krafte undoubtedly appreciates the additional business, it has drawbacks, such as rising overtime payments and the possibility of actually losing business if a heat wave might swamp his resources. “If you can’t respond to the calls, you lose business,” he said.

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