As I hide in my air conditioned house, I look out my window to a post-apocalyptic view and begin to wonder if I am dreaming. I read dystopian novels, and I can’t get enough of them. I watch dystopian movies and love every crazy theory and story about how our future could evolve. Sure, most are completely far fetched and so far to go from reality that it couldn’t possibly happen, and yet here I am, pondering to myself if I am living in one.
Yesterday, we have reached a fairly major milestone in the dystopian life that has been COVID19. We reached Step 3 of the BC re-start plan. I’m still in a little shock that we are here, and actually ready for this step, but eager for the last 15 months to be over. I have read dystopian novels that start with a pandemic, those are a little less hard to disbelieve happening now. I am anxious about what limited to no restrictions is going to mean when we are not all yet vaccinated and new, more aggressive strains are continuing to evolve. I’m excited to see “normalcy” whatever that will mean. But I already know I will be one of the cautious ones whose COVID habits will very slowly be shed. Though I know I won’t be the only one who is not looking to jump right into step 3 as though it was the cool pool I am yearning for during this early spring heat, but rather will dip my toes and ease into it. Even if I was one to just jump in, my employer has fitted us with a life-jacket and is insisting on the ease in option, which I am ok with.
As I sit and ponder this near-ending to the dystopian life that we have been living, I begin to think about the new one that is rearing it’s ugly head. Just as there is hope on the horizon for a happy ending, with the people of the dystopian story finding the new way of life that will lead to a better life of happiness, the next novel comes crashing in. I’m an avid reader, so this is usually how it happens. I leap from one story to the next with little time to dwell on characters that I have grown far too attached to for people who don’t even exist. But when it happens in real life, you almost want a little time between the stories.
A “Heat Dome” which truly sounds like it is out of a Mad Max movie (not far off from Thunder Dome), has been ruling our life for the last week. Basically we are living in a pressure cooker (see below photo for scientific explanation). I hide indoors with fans and an air conditioner because the temperatures are at unsafe levels outside for long periods of time. I mean, we are used to high temperatures here, but this is different, and it is earlier in the year. It is beyond anything ever observed in the Pacific Northwest before. We haven’t acclimatized to the higher temperatures yet. We need a bit more of a “warm-up” period please! Plus, when the weather app that you rely on to determine your daily outings on the so-called “cooler” times of the day is giving you “Special Statements”, you know the story is about to take a turn. One is usually bad enough, but today there are 3. I receive a “Heat Warning”, a “Special Weather Statement” (because record-breaking heat isn’t special enough), and a “Special Air Quality Statement”. Basically, today will suck. It is going to be so hot it is unsafe for long periods of time, but no worries because the air is so concentrated with smoke from wildfires that breathing will be an issue anyways so you should just stay inside again, but also, there will be thunder and lightning with little to no precipitation so likely a bunch of new fires will be starting. Roughly the gist of it all.
With all my indoor time, I think about things I would rather be doing like biking, hiking, fishing, working in the shop, gardening….oh goodness! The garden. Och, hopefully everything survives. We check the plants nightly, after the sun which feels like a laser beam has gone behind the hill. 15 minutes checking the plants and we are sweating and the dogs are panting, so we head back inside. So far we have been lucky and our plants seem to be handling it ok. A little burnt leaves here and some withered leaves there, but overall we haven’t lost anything. In fact, some of our plants seem to be thriving. Our corn, cucumbers and squash are almost doubling in size daily. Everything else is trucking along and continuing to grow. Really it is just the carrot tops that have taken a bit of a beating, but they are holding on.
As we take a moment to enjoy our flower planters and the pretty colour of yellow canna lily that we have this year, with just a hint of orange speckling, we notice that some of our cedars are going red again. Shoot! Not enough water perhaps? Although, they are getting quite a bit and it is at night so it should have plenty of time to soak in. Our neighbour pops his head over the fence to chat, and during the conversation he mentions that his cedars have burned on one side. AH! I take a closer look at ours and sure enough, the ones most exposed to the afternoon sun have been scorched. Unfortunate for the tree, but overall minimal damage and has lots of green still. Really just a bad sun-burn.
We finish chatting with the neighbours and hurry back inside for some cooling relief in the house. Back to social media, because really, what else are you going to do stuck indoors all day? News stories about record-breaking temperatures, spike in sudden deaths (likely related to heat), tips on keeping cool, and so on. Being the nerd I am, I keep a close eye on the stats. Day after day, record after record broken. Can it possibly keep going this way? When will this dome be lifted? So in this dystopian novel the catastrophic event is clearly going to be fire. But also, what if the last novel isn’t done and we have a mix of fire and pandemic? Oh geez.
Peak heat and a town not far from us sets some crazy new records. Now I truly believe I am living a dystopian story. They hit a temperature of 49.6C. I still can’t believe that people have mis-conceptions that Canada is cold. Ha! Technically where we live was the second highest record for Canada at 47.6C, which is higher than the all-time highest record for Las Vegas, Nevada which was 47.2C. Crazy right! Well the story gets worse. That little town setting all the records catches fire. Now we are borderline horror genre as residents explain that from the time of first sight of smoke to the town being overrun with fire was just 15 minutes. 15 minutes. That is literally enough time to save yourself, nothing more. This is the result of hitting those insane record temperatures. As I sit and watch the videos, I truly begin to wonder if this can be real. Those videos look like something out of a far-fetched Hollywood movie with cars, houses, grocery stores and forest all on fire as those fleeing film the devastation wrought by this heat dome.
Now I wonder, what does that mean for our city? We were second highest temperatures in Canada. Back to some research to calm my nerves. Nerves are not calmed. Stats are showing that our wildfire danger rating is the same for end of June 2021 as it was in August 2017 when British Columbia was already on fire. I’ve already read this dystopian novel and I didn’t particularly like it. This is going to get bad. Remember that lighting and thunder warning headed our way…hopefully it is not some epic twist to this story. Nothing to do but wait for it. There’s already a 20,000+ hectare fire burning on the outskirts of town, evacuations of hundreds of homes. It’s already here. It’s already affecting our city. As I’ve said, I’ve read this story a number of times, I didn’t like it, and I would like to pickup a different novel to live in.
We will hold our breath to see if this story will end soon. The heat dome is moving on to terrorize new territory in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. More records are expected to be broken, but hopefully it will be this antagonists last go as we come to the end of the story…one could hope. In the meantime BC will continue to battle the fires and hopefully the projections of what this story will bring will be wrong. I wouldn’t mind being wrong about my guesses on this story. Perhaps we will luck out and the summer won’t bring smoke, fire and struggle for so many. Perhaps we can get the ending to our first dystopian story, which was supposed to be a summer of returning to pre-COVID life.