Okanagan Lake levels remain stubbornly high as June rains refuse to quit | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Okanagan Lake levels remain stubbornly high as June rains refuse to quit

A submerged swing on Okanagan Lake. Water levels remain stubbornly high, with forecasts for more showers in the Okanagan this week.
June 24, 2020 - 6:30 AM

The month of June is rapidly winding down, and with it comes no definitive answer for how much higher Okanagan Lake might rise before it reaches its peak this season.

Shaun Reimer, the man in control of Okanagan Lake dam and controls the lake level, says he’s feeling like a broken record these days.

“I said the next two weeks’ weather were critical to the lake’s rise, and here we are in a similar situation to where we were then,” he says.

Some drier and warmer weather on the weekend helped stabilize lake levels but Reimer says it's too early to tell whether the lake has peaked.

The lake is currently sitting at 342.7 metres, 22 cm above full pool, roughly what it was a week ago.

"We’ve seen it sitting within plus or minus a centimetre or two in the last few days. Tributaries are falling, but they could rise depending on rain,” Reimer says.

This week’s forecast is calling for several days of showers in the Okanagan.

"Obviously, that seems to change from day to day. We dodged a bullet from last weekend, when we could have had significant rain, according to Environment Canada modelling, but we didn’t, with just some localized showers,” he says. "That may be what we’re expecting for the rest of this week, but it’s really hard to tell where those weather patterns are going to land."

He says any showery weather we receive now will just delay the date when the lake starts falling.

The persistently high water level prompted the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen to issue a high water advisory late last week, warning lakeshore residents of possible damage from boat wakes, precipitation and waves. 

Reimer has found a way to allow a few more metres per second of outflow into the Penticton river channel, but that’s not going to make a great deal of difference in the grand scheme of things.

“It amounts to a fraction of a millimetre per day in water level. It’s hard to operationally impact the lake right now. We’re kind of at the mercy of the inflows and the weather. The lake is down maybe a half centimetre from where it was a day or two ago, but we need a longer period than that to see if that’s a trend, and that trend can still be impacted by rain,” he says.

In the past few weeks Reimer says he’s developed some empathy for meteorologists.

"I feel for the weather forecasters. I’m in that same boat, where people look to me for predictions and I’m dealing with a lot of uncertainty right now,” he says.

“There are several different weather forecasts out there, and I find myself reading them all and sometimes struggling with just wanting to pick the best one. It’s a natural kind of thing to do, but I have to watch myself,” Reimer says with a chuckle.

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