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Office workers sent home from stifling building

Welcome to Kuujjuaq, Quebec's new hot spot

By JANE GEORGE

Temperatures in the mid-20s were hot enough to melt lard in Kangisujuaq last week, as the heat closed down stores and offices and sent Nunavimmiut leaping into the water to cool off.

The beach by the Koksoak River was the place to be in Kuujjuaq during the afternoon of Aug. 6 when temperatures shot up to 28.1 C.

Kuujjuaq was the hottest place in Quebec last Wednesday.

The temperature in Montreal was only about 21 C, although even by 10 p.m., temperatures stayed above 20 C in Kuujjuaq.

But the high for Aug. 6 wasn't a record breaker in Kuujjuaq. The temperature hit 29.6 C on Aug. 6, 2003.

Tuesday, Aug. 5 was also hot in Kuujjuaq, with the temperature reaching 26.5 C.

As result of the heat wave, the three-storey Kativik Regional Government building, which lacks air conditioning and is designed to retain heat, became too hot to work in. Employees were sent home at noon on Aug. 6, and other offices around town also closed early.

Kuujjuaq wasn't the only hot spot in Nunavik last week.

The Northern Store in Kangiqsujuaq shut early Aug. 4, 5 and 6 due to the heat.

Compressors that keep the store's freezers cool actually produce heat that is supposed to be funneled outside via vents, but that system was broken, said store manager John Wilkinson.

For this reason, the heat wave was more severe inside the store, where temperatures soared to a 40 C, melting some food items.

"The icing was like soup," Wilkinson said.

And the Tenderflake lard liquefied.

"I touched it the other day, it was like dipping your hand in a bowl of oil," Wilkinson said. "I haven't moved it yet because I'm scared to touch it again."

Long-term weather records are not available for Kangiqsujuaq, but May, June and July have made this summer the hottest seen in Kuujjuaq since 1947, according to Environment Canada.

May's average temperature in Kuujjuaq was 5.6 C, five degrees higher the normal monthly average of .3 C.

The average temperature reached 11 C in June, again, higher than the monthly average temperature of 7.2 C.

And last month's average temperature was 14.3 C, about three degrees higher than the normal monthly average of 1.5.

With files from Justin Nobel in Kangiqsujuaq.

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