‘Just a head shaker’: Ottawa covered by unexpected May heatwave

Ottawans are sweating through a record-breaking stretch of May weather, though it may not be long.

Saturday was Ottawa’s fourth consecutive day of record highs, the longest period of weather above 28°C before May 15 in the past 100 years.

While temperatures have surpassed 30°C in May before, a piece of weather like this has never happened this early, said David Phillips, a senior climatologist at Environment Canada.

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

For some Ottawa residents wandering the ByWard Market, the warm temperatures were a welcome relief. The shop windows were bustling and restaurant patios were packed as people took advantage.

“It feels like mid-July,” said official Jamie McDonald.

People enjoy a pedestrian zone at Ottawa’s ByWard Market on May 11, 2022, the start of a record-breaking hot spell in the nation’s capital. (Ian Black/CBC)

Victoria Westaway, meanwhile, told CBC that she was unprepared for the heat and has yet to buy an air conditioner.

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

Not here to stay

Early heatwaves can be especially uncomfortable, Phillips said, because people aren’t used to summer temperatures yet.

That could lead to people becoming short of breath and potentially requiring medical attention, he said. In the worst cases, extreme heat can be fatal.

The warm weather is probably not here to stay, however. Phillips said he expects a “cooling” in the coming week, with possible rain and thunderstorms.

According to Environment Canada, Tuesday’s maximum temperature is just 11C, with a decent chance of showers.

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

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