High snow and water levels in West Kootenay mean increased risk of flooding

Increased snow pack and water saturation levels prompt call to be prepared for flooding.

Even though the recently forecast rains didn’t come, resulting in most areas escaping predicted flooding, the BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI) is warning residents to be prepared.

“Increased water levels due to continued inclement weather and melting snowpack are expected in the Northeast, Central and Southeast regions of British Columbia, and there is an associated potential for further flooding and landslides,” said a MoTI press release.

With April temperatures lower and precipitation levels higher than normal throughout the region the BC River Forecasting Centre (BCRFC) is reporting that snowpack levels are higher than average as of May 1.

“Cool and wet weather through April has led to a significant increase in snowpack conditions across the province, with the biggest increases being observed in south and southeast BC,” explained BCRFC in their most recent report. “This has been pronounced by a delay in the onset of the snow melt season by about two weeks in most regions of the province.”

On May 1 snow pack levels in the West Kootenay were 134 per cent of normal and 137 per cent of normal in the East Kootenay. This is up from April 1 levels of 119 per cent in the West Kootenay and 116 per cent in the East Kootenay.

The BCRFC report explained that the significant snow accumulation during April has led to an elevated seasonal flood risk across the West Kootenay, East Kootenay, Similkameen, Okanagan and Boundary regions.

“Extremely wet seasonal weather, particularly in southern BC, has led to saturated ground conditions, and rivers are much more responsive to water inputs, such as rainfall or rapid snowmelt, than normal,” said the BCRFC.

Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK) is making making sandbags available to residents who are experiencing or preparing for flooding, a list of locations can be found at rdck.ca. Residents and businesses within the city of Castlegar are advised to contact the Castlegar Fire Department at 250-365-3266 in the event that they need sandbags.

This may also be a good time to review your general emergency plans. The City of Castlegar has an emergency preparedness guidebook that is available at castlegar.ca/pdfs/emergency_preparedness_guidebook.pdf, hard copies are available at City Hall or at the Fire Hall.

The RDCK website also has information on the proper way to use sandbags, debri flow hazards, flood protection planning and links to river flow and lake level advisories.

Area residents and visitors can sign up for free RDCK emergency notifications at rdckemergency.connectrocket.com.