Some area snow accumulations way above normal; officials watching for flood risk - InfoNews

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Some area snow accumulations way above normal; officials watching for flood risk

Snowpack levels in the Okanagan, Thompson and Similkameen regions continue to be higher than normal, March data from the BC River Forecast Centre says.
Image Credit: ADOBE STOCK
March 10, 2020 - 8:30 AM

It’s still early but some municipal governments are already preparing for spring flooding and looking to the hills, some of which are packed with snow levels not seen in 20 years.

Officials keeping an eye on snowpack say an overall snapshot of levels in the Thompson and Okanagan are in line with past years, but not all areas are the same.

River Forecast Centre hydrologist Jonathan Boyd says with 80 per cent of snow accumulations for the season already in, the South and North Thompson snowpacks are considered very high.

“It’s one of the highest years for both of them since 1999,” he says, putting areas of the North Thompson and Shuswap Lake at risk.

“For the Okanagan, it’s 115 per cent of normal, which is lower than Feb. 1 which was at 130 per cent of normal. Part of that may be due to a lack of data at four or five sites that have yet to be measured,” he says.

Boyd says there is also quite a range on one side of the lake versus the other.

“On the eastern side near Kelowna at Mission Creek it’s an automated station that is currently at 144 per cent of normal, which is a 20 year high. Some creeks along the border to the South Thompson in the Kettle River watershed are also very high, and certainly the creeks are at risk at flooding, the lake itself probably not. It’s all dependent on the rainfall and temperatures we have over the next few months,” he says.

Boyd says the April 1 bulletin is the one considered the ‘standard’ to measure years, as it is usually the last one where any significant snow is reported.

He says early March weather has been trending wet and cool, resulting in snowpack levels staying the same or moving slightly higher by April.

Emergency planners are delivering an early message to be prepared should waters begin to rise this spring.

As of March 1, roughly 80 per cent of the snow we’ll get has already hit the ground.
Local snowpack levels as of March 1:

  • North Thompson, 123 per cent of normal
  • South Thompson, 127 per cent of normal
  • Okanagan, 115 per cent of normal
  • Nicola, 88 per cent of normal
  • Similkameen, 112 per cent of normal

In the Central Okanagan, Central Okanagan Emergency Program Coordinator and Kelowna Fire Department Deputy Chief Sandra Follack advises residents to “dust off your emergency family plan and ensure it’s up to date.”

She says spring break is a good time to get the family together, organize a ‘grab and go’ kit and get yourself prepared.

Residents should be prepared to look after themselves for up to 72 hours in the event of an emergency.

“The best time to prepare for an emergency is when there isn’t one,” she says.


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