(Advocate file photo).

River Forecast Centre upgrades number of B.C. waterways on flood watch


VANCOUVER — The rapid melting of some of the highest snowpacks in British Columbia’s history is causing flooding across the province, said provincial river watchers.

David Campbell, head of the B.C. River Forecast Centre, said Monday there are several areas in the province where the snowpack is over 150% of its normal rate, including the Okanagan, where it was measured at 206%, one of the highest rates seen since recording of snowpacks began in the 1980s.

A state of local emergency was expanded across Kelowna on Monday afternoon, the Okanagan region’s largest city.

Campbell said because of the delayed melt season in some areas, higher snowpack values have been seen and that could mean more water in the rivers later this month.

The warm weather and up to 15 millimetres of rain forecast for mid-week could be enough to create higher flows when combined with the snow melts, which make the situation worse for areas already under flood watches, said Campbell.

“There might be some more high pressure ridge development later in the week and into the weekend, then we really transition back into that rapid melt,” said Campbell. “Certainly the outset of this week could be another challenging week in terms of flows across the Interior.”

Campbell said the average snowpack when measured May 1 was 168% above normal across the province, up from 127% when it was measured on April 1.

Chris Duffy, executive director for programs at Emergency Management BC, confirmed there were 17 states of local emergency, eight band council resolutions for alerts or orders, 21 evacuation orders affecting 187 homes and 22 evacuation alerts covering 585 homes.

He said they’ve deployed two million sandbags in flood watch areas and borrowed sandbag-making machines from Saskatchewan.

The tip of the day would be to stay clear of swollen rivers and other floodwaters, Duffy said.

“With regards to staying safe, staying out of floodwaters, not walking through that, keeping clear of banks and streams with children and pets.”

Officials said evacuation orders in the Nazko Valley were expected to be downgraded to evacuation alerts as of Tuesday, where nearly 120 properties were ordered evacuated for almost a week.

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