High risk of seasonal flooding in the Okanagan

Snowpacks in the Middle Fraser region are just below seasonal normals as of Feb. 1, 2016.
Image Credit: Anthony Stahn

THOMPSON-OKANAGAN - While high snowpack levels have dropped in some parts of the region, levels remain high enough in the Okanagan to make forecasters believe there's a chance of seasonal flooding this year.

Snowpack levels in the region currently range from a low of 56 per cent of normal in the Stikine area to a high of 122 per cent in the Okanagan. The Similkameen, Middle and Lower Fraser and the North and South Thompson regions are all near normal levels (92 to 105 per cent) while Boundary sits at 114 per cent and Skagit at 64 per cent. Skagit and Similkameen were the only two regions to see significant decreases, dropping from 109 per cent and 143 per cent, respectively.

By this time of year about two-thirds of the annual snowpack has typically accumulated and the higher than normal snowpack in the Okanagan has the potential to elevate seasonal flood risk. Localized areas along the Nicola River system may also face an elevated flood risk.

So far seasonal volume runoffs forecasts are near-normal in most basins, though the Kalamalka-Wood basin is expected to be below normal and the Nicola River and Similkameen River systems are expected to be well above normal.

The B.C. River Forecast Centre notes January weather was mixed, with dry periods and active storm cycles, though overall temperatures were a few degrees above seasonal normals through much of the province. Much of the Southern Interior, including the Okanagan, Kootenay and Columbia regions, experienced above normal precipitation levels in January as well.

The forecast centre expects warmer El Niño conditions to last through the late spring or early summer and notes snow and weather conditions so far this season have been typical of an El Niño year. Temperatures are highly likely to be above seasonal normal temperatures February through April, according to seasonal forecasts from Environment Canada, with an increased chance of warmer than normal temperatures through the summer months as well.

Image Credit: B.C. River Forecast Centre

To contact a reporter for this story, email Jennifer Stahn at jstahn@infonews.ca or call 250-819-3723. To contact an editor, email mjones@infonews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

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