As heat wave continues, Calgarians — 4 legged and otherwise — find ways to cool off

With a heat wave in much of Western Canada stretching into its third day, Calgarians, people and animals alike, are finding ways to cool off.

Nearly all of Alberta remains under a heat warning issued by Environment Canada. The weather agency predicts the hottest temperatures are expected on Wednesday, with temperatures reaching 35 C. Overnight, temperatures are expected to stay through the high teens and early 20s.

On Tuesday, CBC News spoke to several families who chose to pause their Calgary Stampede plans and instead hit the banks of the Bow River.

Travis Stehmeier travelled with his family from Utah to take part in the 10-day festival.

"We're gonna take a break [from the Stampede] today ... so we'll take it easy at the river here," said Stehmeier.

"I just got out of [the water], so I'm feeling really good right now, but it's been a toasty week I would say ... this has been really nice and refreshing."

Families spent Tuesday afternoon cooling off in the river at St. Patrick’s Island Park in Calgary.
Families spent Tuesday afternoon cooling off in the river at St. Patrick’s Island Park in Calgary. (Josh McLean/CBC)

Anne Marie Lambert, another out-of-towner, is from Quebec, where she says more homes have air conditioning.

"It's kind of different cultural shock for me."

"I guess I'm getting used to the heat, I'm getting used to sleeping in hot weather, and during the day, we're going to [the river]."

On Monday night, the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) issued a grid alert for more than an hour due to supply concerns.

AESO said it was triggered by an unplanned outage at a natural gas power plant, and an outage on a power line outside of Alberta which affected the amount of electricity that could be imported into the province.

While AESO is forecasting adequate supply for this week, given the ongoing high temperatures, the grid operator says Albertans can help by trying to conserve power, especially during the 4 to 7 p.m. period when electricity use typically peaks.

The last summer peak record for electricity was set in June 2021, said AESO, but at times, the amount of electricity being used this week has started to approach that level.  

Patrick Thompson, animal care manager with the Calgary Zoo, says staff watch the animals closely for heat stress.
Patrick Thompson, animal care manager with the Calgary Zoo/Wilder Institute, says staff watch the animals closely for heat stress. (Josh McLean/CBC)

Over at the Calgary Zoo/Wilder Institute, polar bears used to Arctic temperatures splashed in their own private pool.

Patrick Thompson, an animal care manager, said staff keep an extra-close eye on the bears and other cool-weather animals, such as the muskox and snow leopards.

"The animal care team is going to be watching them really closely looking for signs of heat stress, but we have a lot of different ways that we can help the animals out," he said.

That includes giving animals access to climate controlled areas, sprinklers, and even ice 'popsicles' that staff freeze before doling out.

Thompson said people are often surprised that certain animals are actually better adapted to hot temperatures than they expect.

"We get a lot of questions about the humboldt penguins, which are the ones that are outside in the summer time," he said.

"They are a warm weather species from South America, so they're super well adapted to these kinds of temperatures and they're very comfortable when it gets hot."

A dog drips with water after going for a swim on Tuesday.
A dog drips with water after going for a swim on Tuesday. (Mike Symington/CBC)

Closer to home, Calgarians should be aware of how their own pets are faring in the heat, and take the proper precautions, says veterinarian Chanpreet Bath.

Bath says it's best to keep pets out of the sun during the hottest part of the day, limit strenuous exercise and avoid taking them along to do errands.

That's because heat stroke, he says, can come on quite quickly. Some signs include tiredness, lethargy and increased panting.

"If you do notice signs and symptoms, get them a little bit wet, [into] a shady place ... a fan we can use to help the water evaporate off them and cool them through convection," says Bath.