Higher than normal snow packs pose risk for spring flooding
"Whether it floods or not does come down to how that snow melts'
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Almost a year after the spring floods that lead to the evacuation of several communities in south central B.C., higher than normal snow packs are causing concern ahead of the 2018 melt season.
“When we look at the snow pack it gives us a really good handle on how much water is stored in the snow and that needs to come down when we get into the melt season,” said Dave Campbell, the head of the B.C. River Forecast Centre.
“But really whether it floods or not does come down to how that snow melts,” he said.
A key factor is rain, which drove flooding last year, but higher than normal temperatures can also cause problems.
The March 1 snow survey shows the snow pack is 144 per cent of normal in the Similkameen basin, 141 per cent of normal in the Okanagan basin, and 136 per cent of normal in the Boundary basin.
The Fraser River basin as a whole is about 110 per cent of normal – below the threshold of 120 per cent that would cause Campbell concern. However, the Fraser, which drains about a quarter of the province and winds through the densely populated Lower Mainland, is always monitored closely, he said.
Typically, the province has about 80 per cent of the snow that’s going to fall by the March 1 survey, but Campbell isn’t expecting to see any decrease in the flood risk before the April 1 survey.
“We’re pretty far along in the season so things could change a little bit but particularly for some of the areas where we are quite high right now I don’t think we’re likely to reduce that risk,” he said.
“We’re probably beyond that level, I think the concern for us is does that risk increase.”
Following the widespread spring flooding in 2017 and the unprecendented widlfire season, the B.C. government launched an independent review of its response. That report, including recommendations related to issues of preparedness, prevention, and response, is expected April 30.