As summer heats up in the Okanagan, communities are taking steps to ensure residents have the opportunity to cool down.
Cooling centres have opened in Penticton, Osoyoos, and the Shuswap region, and a pop-up spray park has opened in Vernon. The exception is Kelowna, which is instead encouraging people to follow Interior Health’s guidelines.
“With the forecast for the next few days, being a little higher than it typically is during the summer months, we’ve identified more of a proactive approach to provide an opportunity for the community to cool off,” said Anthony Haddad, general manager with City of Penticton’s Community Services.
“Opening [Tuesday] as a result of the increased heat over the next few days, we’ve got four cooling centers that are located within our existing city facilities.”
Cooling centres in Penticton:
- South Okanagan Events Centre (open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.)
- Penticton Community Centre (open 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.)
- Penticton Public Library auditorium and lobby (open 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.)
- Penticton Seniors’ Drop-in Centre (open 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.)
- Penticton Indian Band Community Hall
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“Our council is really behind our emergency services operations in the city and providing those support services for the community where they need. It’s an opportunity that is relatively simple for us to provide our community,” Haddad said.
“The facilities are open from Tuesday until Saturday. That’s when we see the increased heat forecast during the week. Then we’ll be reviewing that towards the end of the week and any updates will provide for the community moving forward.”
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Despite the scorching temperatures, Kelowna hasn’t opened any cooling centres or additional water stations and instead the city posted a tweet encouraging people to follow Interior Health’s guidelines.
The Kelowna Gospel Mission, an agency that works with vulnerable people, says extreme heat puts the homeless population at greater risk for things like heatstroke.
“Definitely health risks like heatstroke – I was out there today and it’s hot and I’m healthy and I have a bed to sleep in, clothes and an office with air conditioning but it’s hot out there, it’s tough out there,” said Kelowna Gospel Mission’s director of development Michael Morrison.
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The agency says it now has teams checking on Kelowna’s most vulnerable population round the clock, meeting the people where they are.
“We’re just addressing those needs and being proactive. We have two vans and presently, they’re going from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day,” Morrison said.
“We’re not doing stationary cooling stations, but we’re actually a mobile cooling station. We’re giving out water, hats, sunscreen, doing our regular meals and doing wellness checks.”
A heat warning is still in effect as temperatures are expected to hit 40 C this week but It’s unclear if Kelowna will open any cooling centres.
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