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Tag: extreme heat

Wildfire smoke and extreme summer weather

Weathering the elements: strategies for extreme summer weather in southwestern Alberta

Southwestern Alberta has recently been slammed by major weather issues. The region is no stranger to such events, but with extreme weather hazards on the rise, it is important for visitors and locals alike to be prepared for anything.

Most concerning for our region in the summer are wildfires, floods, windstorms and drought. Emerging hazards for the region include extreme heat and wildfire smoke.

“We encourage people to know the hazards in our region and to think about how they may be more or less vulnerable in their particular location and home or work,” says Brett Wuth, director of emergency management for the Pincher Creek Regional Emergency Management Organization, which covers the MD and town of Pincher Creek and Cowley.

Suggestions and strategies are readily available online, but it can be daunting to find information for a specific weather event, especially on the fly.

For those filled with concern, fear not. This article will provide several strategies and recommendations from reputable sources to prepare you for increasingly common weather hazards.

 

Ad for Ascent Dental in Pincher Creek

 

Wildfires

In Alberta, wildfire season officially begins March 1 and runs until Oct. 31. As dry conditions have become the norm for the province, so too have increasingly destructive wildfire seasons. Before a wildfire approaches, it is important to be prepared in the event of a sudden evacuation.

First and foremost, Albertans residing in or visiting areas at risk of wildfires are encouraged to download the Alberta Wildfire Status and Alberta Emergency Alert apps to receive alerts, status updates, wildfire locations, fire bans and more.

Be sure to have an emergency kit stocked with supplies such as water, food, a battery-powered or crank radio, a flashlight and extra batteries. Also, store important documents in a safe place above ground that is easily accessible.

When dealing with an approaching wildfire, listen for updates from authorities and be prepared to leave at any moment. Have belongings you’d take with you gathered and your vehicle stocked and ready. Animals should be moved to a safe location. Avoid locking pets or livestock in enclosures where they could be trapped.

 

 

Do not, under any circumstances, attempt to fight a wildfire yourself, as they move quickly and unpredictably. Wildfire crews are specially trained to manage such situations.

An evacuation alert can be upgraded to an evacuation order at a moment’s notice. If issued by authorities, obey it immediately; failing to obey it puts your and others’ lives at risk.

Following a wildfire, do not return to your property if authorities have not deemed it safe to do so or if there is visible structural damage. It is recommended to monitor potential hot spots around your home even days after a fire.

If you see a wildfire in a forested area, call Alberta Wildfire at 310-FIRE (3473). If a fire appears in your community, call 911. If you are unsure of the wildfire status in your area, visit www.alberta.ca/wildfire-status.

 

Ad for Blinds and More in Pincher Creek and Crowsnest Pass

 

Smoke

With wildfires comes smoke. It is an increasingly common hazard for the region, so it is important to know how to handle this emerging problem.

Wildfire smoke can be very harmful, so it is crucial to monitor air quality in your area. You can do this through the Air Quality Events section on the Alberta Health Services website.

Children and the elderly, as well as those with heart- and lung-related health problems are at greatest risk from smoke inhalation.

“When extreme weather events happen, it’s often our seniors, young and most vulnerable that struggle the greatest,” says Wuth. “I encourage people to check regularly on their neighbours and extended family to see they are doing well.”

To help avoid breathing in harmful smoke, ensure windows and doors are shut, with vents and other openings sealed with some sort of adhesive to keep smoke out. Paper masks do not provide protection from smoke inhalation.

If you or a loved one is experiencing trouble breathing as a result of smoke, seek immediate medical attention.

“Paying attention to local media and downloading the WeatherCan and Alberta Emergency Alert apps will help people learn of local extreme weather incidents as they develop,” says Wuth.

Next week’s issue of Shootin’ the Breeze will provide more need-to-know information about other extreme weather hazards.

 

Presenter stands to the left of crowd viewing screen at open house

Pincher Creek climate risks and adaptations

Jeff Zukiwsky, project manager for the Climate Risk Assessment and Adaptation Plan, addressed regional climate projections and risks for the Pincher Creek area along with projected costs of climate events versus the cost and benefits of adaptation measures at a June 28 open house.

Results presented focused on climate-change risks facing Pincher Creek, how these risks could affect the community, risks to prioritize and how to adapt to those risks.

The main risks identified, based on likelihood and potential consequences, include flooding, wildfire, drought, water shortage, extreme heat, loss of winter recreation and wildfire smoke.

About 20 people turned out to hear Zukiwsky speak about steps taken in developing the plan, adaptation measures identified and the economic analysis of doing nothing.

The action plan contains 35 recommended climate adaptation actions, listed under five categories: health and well-being, disaster resilience, infrastructure, parks and environment, and economy. 

According to the report, while climate change is expected to bring some economic benefits to the Pincher Creek region, the total economic impact is projected to be overwhelmingly negative. 

Under the high future climate scenario, it is anticipated that climate change will lead to economic losses estimated at $18.3 million and $32.8 million (in 2020 dollars) per year, on average, by the 2050s and 2080s, respectively.

Those who attended the open house were given the opportunity to provide feedback, ask questions and talk with those involved in the project. 

Based on the reactions, comments and questions, Tristan Walker, municipal energy project lead, feels the crowd was on board with the plan as presented.

 

Pig roast at wedding venue — the Cowley Lions Campground Stockade near Pincher Creek in southwestern Alberta.

 

“The positive feedback sets us up to pursue adaptation measures and stay ahead of climate change, as opposed to reacting to it,” he says. 

“This is an opportunity to invest in our future and to leverage this plan as a tool to pursue funding to go forward with some of these adaptation measures.”

For Walker, a major takeaway was hearing about a lack of trust in the town and MD’s community engagement processes, as a number of residents expressed disgruntlement with past attempts to engage the community in various decisions and actions.

They made it clear that, in the past, they felt ignored when called upon for similar community engagement due to a lack of action taken based on their comments, suggestions and requests. 

“A big part of this is going to be us rebuilding that trust and saying, look, we really do value your input, and we’re working hard to implement these things within the scope of our responsibilities,” says Walker.

The Climate Risk Assessment and Adaptation Plan was collaboratively prepared by the Town and MD of Pincher Creek, the Piikani Nation and a consulting team led by All One Sky Foundation.

The Climate Risk Assessment and Adaptation Plan report contains a complete list of recommended actions. The costs of inaction and a full economic analysis of climate risks are also highlighted in the full report. 

Funding for this project was provided by the Municipal Climate Change Action Centre’s Climate Resilience and Capacity Building Program. The Municipal Climate Change Action Centre is a partnership of Alberta Municipalities, Rural Municipalities of Alberta, and the Government of Alberta.

Residents with questions or comments are encouraged to email Tristan Walker.