More than 90 deaths in Quebec Due to Heat Wave

I found this quite surprising as I consider Quebec to be too far north to have such extreme heat. But doing some research there have been worse heatwaves in Canadian history; the worst apparently being in 1936 killing 1180 people:

I find this hard to believe. Yes, it was hot, but I drank a lot (mostly mint tea since our yard is overgrown with the stuff) and dressed scantily. We slept under a fan blowing constantly. Had it been necessary, we would have driven up to the mall, but it wasn’t. +35 is a hell of a lot better than -35, even with good central heating and no air conditioning.

What I find interesting is that 95F is hot but not that hot. I know people adjust to their climate, but didn’t realize it could be so deadly.

I’ve called bullshit on this from the start. People (especially old people) die all the time, obviously.

Prove to me that moderately hot temperatures killed these people.

This is not uncommon. There are a bazillion articles on heat-related mortality out there, but the big takeaways from them seem to be:

A.) A lot of the mortality, but by no means all, hits people over 65.

B.) Most of those have serious pre-existing medical issues like cardiovascular disease.

C. )People used to more temperate weather suffer more than folks used to constant heat( like Texans ).

Basically what mostly happens is older, ill and usually poor people are pushed over the edge by the stress of unaccustomed heat and succumb to pre-existing issues. The term is mortality displacement.

We had a terrible heat wave. I’ve lived in Montreal all my life, and it was the worst heatwave of my life. I had no AC and got really sick from the heatwave.

I wasn’t dying, thankfully, but I kind of felt like I was.

And for people who don’t believe how bad the heatwave was, I remind them that people did in fact die from it. I watched the death toll go up every day of the heat wave. It was fucking depressing.

Also note Tamerlane’s point C above, that people in more moderate climates aren’t used to the extreme heat - perhaps evidenced by the fact that many people in Montreal don’t have air conditioning, as it’s not always hot enough for enough days to justify it.

100 degree F heat in a home with no air conditioning, even with the windows open and the fan going - it’s not pleasant, to put it mildly.

Leaffan, I remember chatting online with you when I was hot and physically sick and depressed and a little delirious from the extreme heat. I do thank you for helping me through that.

I live next door in Ottawa with the same weather. We’ve had summers like this often. There are no reports of heat deaths in Ottawa. I went through numerous summers like this in the 30 years I’ve lived here. I don’t recall the same hyperbole.

Last summer sucked. This summer is warm, but not unprecedented.

I think part of the reason it seems like there are so many heat-related deaths in Quebec is that I heard Quebec keeps track of deaths like that, whereas other areas don’t, or not as much.
Information on Quebec versus Ontario in this respect:

Great article. Thank you.
My family came to Canada from the UK 50 years ago under similar heat, and man, I’ll tell you, I didn’t think it could ever be this hot.

PS. You know I love this heat.

I’ve never been to Ottawa but I have been to Montreal. I’m sure there are some lovely parks and other green spaces, but my recollection is that there was mainly a lot of concrete. Concrete, I believe, not only heats up faster than greenery but can add to the ambient temperature. In especially built up areas of the city the temps could well have been significantly higher than the officially recorded temps.

Also I believe Montreal has a large proportion of old housing stock, which tended to have fewer windows and thicker walls than you might have in more modern cities. Both would tend to hold in the heat, reduce the effects of breezes, and so on.

So to me anyway it does not seem implausible that the same degree of heat would cause more suffering and death in Montreal than in Ottawa. Obviously ymmv.

If I could just keep my bedroom temperature below 30 degrees Celsius, I’d be happy.

Yes, Montreal does have a lot of concrete. Plus, my apartment was built around 1910. I’ve heard that this was before air conditioning, but that buildings of that era were built to be cool in the first place. I imagine, though, that they didn’t have to deal with 2018-level heat.

You remind me of when during the 1995 Chicago heat wave when the morgue overflowed and the city rented refrigerated truck trailers to keep hundreds of dead bodies until they could be properly dealt with, Mayor Daley stated that heat couldn’t have possibly killed all those people. My thought? Well, damn, if it wasn’t the heat you better figure out what it was because we have 700 dead people we’re running out of room for the stiffs.

In the past frail people died more frequently all the time, year round. With modern medical and climate control they can live longer - until stressed like something like a heat wave, which then carries them off. 95 is bearable when you’re young and healthy. When you’re old and frail with heart or lung problems it really can kill you.

Serious question – I really don’t know the answer.

Do people in Quebec typically not have air conditioning? From what I can gather, 80-85 degrees F isn’t unheard of in the summer, so I’d assume an A/C system in most dwellings. Are hot days rare enough that it’s not worth the expense of installation and upkeep? What about cars? (Can you even order a car without A/C nowadays?)

I looked up the average lows for Quebec and got -11 C for December. If my conversion is correct that’s around 12F. It does that occasionally here, along with occasional spikes like yesterday’s 111F, (both pics taken this year) but neither extreme seems to cause the large health problems I read about in other cities.

Are houses up north “optimized” more for keeping heat in, rather than out? I’m genuinely confused about this.

When I first heard of the death toll, I thought: hospitals! Most hospitals in Québec were built before 1980 and don’t have air conditioning in the rooms. But no, the public health officials said that this didn’t include hospitals or government long-term care facilities. (So the real death toll is probably higher.)

When I was a kid in the 1970s, most houses in my suburban neighbourhood didn’t have air conditioning. We just opened the windows and used fans (in some cases, the furnace fan) to circulate the air. AC has only become prevalent in the past 20 years or so in the suburbs, and EmilyG’s linked article says that many dwellings in central Montréal don’t have it.

80-85, with the temperature dropping at night, is something that open windows and fans can make tolerable because the difference between air temperature and body temperature are still great enough moving air provides good cooling. At 90-95 even moving air doesn’t provide as much cooling because it’s so close to body temperature, and the temperature drop at night isn’t as great so it’s harder to cool down and relieve heat stress on the body. There are architectural tricks that can result in some forms of passive cooling but they have to be build into the structure. A place like Montreal is far enough north that 90+ heat is rare (and used to be even rarer) and keeping heat inside in the winter is a far more pressing concern.

With all of the above, AC becomes less cost-effective, and it’s certainly expensive to retro-fit old building stock.

As a general rule, yes. Especially anything built prior to, say, 1960, and more so the further back you go.

Yeah, I’m not so sure why this is so difficult to believe. I remember the '95 heat wave and, as a college kid who only had a room fan to keep him cool, it was just bearable enough for me, but for much weaker, older or sick folks, I can see how it pushed them over the edge. I mean, all the extra dead people are pretty much a giveaway that something’s up.

I would assume similar thing in Quebec’s heat wave. When you have a sudden blip in mortality coinciding with hot weather, it’s not unreasonable to posit that perhaps there’s a link there. Note the language in the news report quoted in the OP. “May be linked” and “likely died.” Nothing definite (although they will have more definite numbers in the fall after they review the causes of death more closely.)

And, depending on humidity levels, I personally consider 95F fucking hot. I’ve been to Phoenix when it’s 115, and I’ll take Phoenix at 115 over Chicago at even 90. Just a little humidity in the air and I turn into a wet rag within seconds.

This is a good reason to own a small window AC unit. Before we had central air in our first house*, we had a little 5000 BTU unit for our MBR. When it got to hot to tolerate, the AC went on and I spent a lot of time in the bedroom. Talking about $120 to $140 and might get a sale item at end of summer for $99.

  • We had a whole house fan and 4 huge oaks shading the house. So while the humidity use to bother me, it took 90°f+ days to really be uncomfortable. We bought our AC unit during a snow storm from Sears for $79. Quite the bargain, but this was 23 or 24 years ago.

When the temperature is excessive for days in a row, it can be surprising to see the results. Especially in cities if the temperature does not moderate much at night during those days. I believe it was the summer of 1995 when LOTS of people died in Chicago during such a stretch. There were bodies being stored in refrigerated units on the street.

ETA Broomstick and Pulykamell I responded here before reading all the other responses.

Yes deaths during that Chicago heat wave were real. But a great many of them were elderly people who refused to even open their windows because they were afraid of being robbed so ended up in stuffy rooms over 110 and nothing moving. By contrast, I read about one woman who went to an air conditioned mall every day and then went back to her apartment and slept covered with wet towels and the air blowing over her. She survived fine. A temperature of 95, going down to 75 over night is just not that extreme. And I am 81 with heart disease.

Another difference is that some people have zero survival skills outside of a high tech, powered first world HVAC environment. You do.