April 22, 2016 - 2:30 PM
PENTICTON - The Regional District issued a high streamflow advisory this week as a string of record heat setting days accelerated the melt of an unusually large snowpack in the Okanagan and Similkameen watersheds.
Emergency services supervisor Dale Kronebusch says the last few days have seen spring melt really pick up in the South Okanagan, following four days of record setting temperatures.
“We’re starting to see a few problems in Willowbrook,” he says, noting the aquifer there was in drought condition only three years ago.
The Sportsmen’s Bowl north of Oliver and the oxbows of the Okanagan River are areas starting to see excessive water building up.
Kronebusch says the rapidly rising Similkameen River is starting to back up the Okanagan River at its entry point, which is in turn being exacerbated by increasing flows in the Okanagan River as more water is being let downstream to prevent flooding in Kelowna.
“It’a constant battle and an art to regulate water flow so no one gets flooded at this time of year. It’s a real balancing act,” Kronebusch says, adding the valley isn’t in a flood state yet, but water levels have been rising steadily in both the Okanagan and Similkameen valleys this week.
“We’re also just starting to hear the Tulameen River is rising,” he says. It traditionally floods every spring, so his office is monitoring the increase closely.
In spite of the moisture on the valley floor right now, Kronebusch says a burning ban may apply soon in the South Okanagan if ground moisture levels don’t improve, noting valley bottoms are currently full of water, but mid-elevations are bone dry with snow still remaining at upper elevations.
The Village of Keremeos also issued a warning this week, advising those planning a walk near the Similkameen River to stick to designated trails and dikes. The village is urging caution when entering the Similkameen riverbed, advising residents not to cross the river or camp on flood plains.
“Springtime means banks can be slippery and the water can start running fast. With warm temperatures, spring thaws and rain can produce large amounts of runoff in a short time. Those who have crossed the river could quickly become stranded due to fast rising waters, and those camping could get flooded out,” the village advises in a media release.
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