Hot, dry weather prompts concerns

MONTREAL — Extreme heat and dry conditions in parts of Central and Eastern Canada have led to a surge in forest fires, limitations on water use, and concerns that crops could be ruined if there’s not more rain soon.

MONTREAL — Extreme heat and dry conditions in parts of Central and Eastern Canada have led to a surge in forest fires, limitations on water use, and concerns that crops could be ruined if there’s not more rain soon.

This summer has seen record-setting temperatures in Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes, along with far less rain than normal in many areas.

“We’ve definitely beaten a few records in a few areas,” Roberta Diaconesco of Environment Canada said Sunday.

“Compared to other years, yes, we could say that it’s pretty hot and humid.”

There was some respite on Sunday, with some areas hit with thundershowers after a string of hot, humid days. But overall, the numbers indicate a summer far more dry than normal.

Montreal, for example, normally gets over 90 millimetres of rain in July, but has only had 21 millimetres so far this year, Diaconesco said.

Things were so dry in Ottawa over the weekend that two downtown homes appear to have caught fire after something sparked the grass outside. There were several other brush fires elsewhere in the city.

Some parts of southern Quebec haven’t had rain since July 4, causing the St. Lawrence River to drop to levels that haven’t been seen in years.

Corn farmers in Ontario have raised concerns the dry conditions will make it difficult for pollination, while in Quebec apple growers project the crop will be down 15 per cent from last year.

In New Brunswick, dry weather led several municipalities to ask residents to cut back on water use and avoid watering lawns and washing cars.

Melanie Morin, a spokeswoman for Quebec’s forest fire monitoring service, said there have already been 460 forest fires in 2012 — more than 50 above average for this time of year.

There were about 20 forest fires still burning in Quebec on Sunday.

“The majority are smaller, human-caused fires,” Morin said.

“It’s been very dry for most of the southern part of the province we’ve been more than two weeks without rain.”

A campfire ban remained in effect Sunday in many parts of Quebec. While some showers hit Montreal Sunday afternoon, Morin said that likely wouldn’t be enough to lift the band and there were concerns lighting storms in the forecast could lead to more fires.

The hot weather is expected to continue into mid-week, when a cold front comes in that could bring in more rain, Diaconesco said.

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