'Plan ahead': Summer camps kick off in Waterloo Region amid scorching heatwave

Monday marked the start of summer camps across Waterloo Region, with kids kicking off the summertime staple amid a sweltering heatwave.

Daytime highs were well above 30 C, with the humidex making it feel closer to 40 C as a heat warning blanketed much of southwestern Ontario.

"Of course it is the first day of summer camp and we are in a little bit of a heatwave," said Michelle Playfair, general manager of Bingemans.

It’s the second year in a row with some level of COVID-19 safety restrictions on summer camps. At Bingemans, the focus is on spending as much time outdoors as possible.

But the hot weather makes that a challenge.

Hind Al-Abadleh, a researcher and chemistry professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, says although scorching temperatures aren't uncommon in the summer months, Ontario is beginning to see heat waves and warnings earlier in the season than usual.

"It is expected we are going to experience some hot and humid days," she said. "So this again raises the question of how to tolerate heat waves, which is by actually planning ahead of time. So you plan ahead by having what we call climate-controlled spaces."

Al-Abadleh added children are more susceptible to heat.

At Bingemans, Playfair said kids are splitting their time between outdoor activities and breaks inside to cool down. They've also have shaded areas and added water stations to help beat the heat.

Indoor cooling breaks follow strict COVID-19 safety protocols.

"They'll be going inside and doing some appropriate activities in the buildings, obviously being mindful of the COVID restrictions," Playfair said. "Kids will be wearing masks and that kind of thing when they come inside."

Parents are also required to complete a screening form online every day before their kids head to camp.

At the Great Big Theatre Company's day camp in Kitchener, staff are doing their best to mix low-impact, physically distance exercise into their programming.

Artistic director Lily Small says they're also making accommodations to bring kids inside when it gets too hot or when it rains.

"We have a certain routine that we do inside with duct tape on the floor and distancing within cohorts groups," Small said.

One of the biggest changes they've made to their camps this year is creating individual prop and costume bags for each camper.

Meanwhile, camps run through the City of Kitchener are also making accommodations for the heat.

"With the hot weather, staff shorten the amount of time spent outdoors and plan outdoor time for cooler times of the day, usually early morning or late afternoon," city officials said in a statement.

HEAT RECORDS IN WATERLOO REGION

Highest temperature in Waterloo: 36.5 C on Aug. 8, 2001 (recorded at the Waterloo Airport weather station)

Highest humidex in Waterloo: 48.3 C on Aug. 2, 1988

Highest temperature in Kitchener: 38.3 C, recorded on both July 27, 1941 and Aug. 7, 1918.

Figures provided by Environment Canada severe weather specialist Rob Kuhn.

HIGHEST TEMPERATURES IN THE PAST DECADE

The highest temperature recorded each year at the University of Waterloo weather station, provided by environment and climate change professor Frank Seglenieks.

  • 2010: 33.1 C on July 5
  • 2011: 35.7 C on July 21
  • 2012: 33.5 C on July 17
  • 2013: 34.7 C on Sept. 10
  • 2014: 30.1 C on June 27
  • 2015: 32.4 C on Sept. 7
  • 2016: 33.6 C on Aug. 10
  • 2017: 32.2 C on Sept. 24
  • 2018: 33.4 C on June 17
  • 2019: 33.2 C on July 5
  • 2020: 34.4 C on July 9