Today’s Poll

Flooding possible if large snow pack melts fast

Claire Paradis
By Claire Paradis
April 18th, 2018

Snow measurements across the province as of April 1 were 127 per cent of normal, up significantly from the 119 per cent measured on March 1.

But a large snow pack isn’t a guarantee of flooding, says Travis Abbey, Regional District of Central Kootenay’s (RDCK) Emergency Management Supervisor.

“A lot of people focus on snow pack levels but really it’s more about how the moisture comes out of the mountains,” Abbey said. “There have been years with snow pack at less than 100 per cent that have resulted in flooding when there’s a fast melt.”

Temperatures in the Interior of the province were well below normal this past February, with far more precipitation accumulated. That perception is backed up by snow survey data collected from 132 snow courses and 74 automated snow weather stations around the province by the Ministry of Environment Snow Survey Program, BC Hydro and other partners that comprises the monthly Snow Survey and Water Supply Bulletins. 

Snow storms in February added to the Interior snow pack, but conditions were drier than normal down on the South Coast and Vancouver Island. Overall, the province’s snow pack was above normal for April in the West Kootenay (127 per cent) and East Kootenay (119 per cent).

Nelson data shows the snow pack at 123 per cent of normal as of April 1.

The Boundary region snow pack increased significantly in April from 136 per cent to 149 per cent of normal accumulation, and the Similkameen and Okanagan regions had the highest snow pack numbers at 152 per cent of normal. Snow pack levels in northern B.C. are lower than normal, with the Northwest, Stikine, and Liard regions at 72, 65, 83 per cent respectively. 

Temperatures in March were closer to normal than they were in 2018’s chilly February, but precipitation was definitely higher than usual across the interior and lower than normal on the Coast and Vancouver Island. 

This year’s large snow pack could contribute to the risk for flooding, if temperatures warm up quickly. The key is being aware and prepared, says Abbey.

“Certainly some areas are more prone to high water levels than others,” said Abbey. “Slocan Valley, the north end of Kootenay Lake . . . it all depends on how rapidly the snow pack leaves the mountains.”

Abbey recommends RDCK residents sign up to receive emergency alerts via landline or cell phone call, text, or email. People who are concerned and would like to prepare sandbags can find them at their local fire hall.

“Historically, we have a cache of sandbags throughout the region,” Abbey said. “If things get serious we can set up sand bag stations at fire halls.”

The best thing you can do is pay attention to the water level and quality and be emergency prepared.

“It’s good to have a situational understanding of what’s happening around you,” said Abbey. “If there’s a rapid change of colour and flow, that can mean the ground upstream is letting go.”

Some of that warmer temperature is set to arrive by the weekend, with the forecast of sunny Sunday and Monday, with a high to 16 C and 18 C, respectively.

For more information about being prepared for emergencies, visit the RDCK website.

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