As flooding concerns diminish across the province, concerns about wildfires and drought are beginning to percolate.
David Campbell, head of the BC River Forecast Centre, said favourable weather has mediated river flooding concerns across most of B.C. while increased rates of snow melting has bumped up the usual mid-June peak river period.
“We are seeing the accelerated snowpack melt continue in recent days from 40 to 100 per cent at the higher elevations,” said Campbell.
“We are several weeks ahead of the normal flood season river peak levels due to the extreme hot temperatures over the last month.”
Lingering potential flood issues still persist in the Kootenays, Campbell noted, but an absence of significant rainfall will lower the level of concern.
Related: Most Kootenay-Boundary flood evacuees allowed to return home
“The weather looks promising and the rivers depths didn’t really change that much on the Fraser River the past few days so that is a positive sign,” Campbell said.
He added the North Thompson River has likely peaked already and the South Thompson and Shuswap Lake are likely to do the same before the end of this week.
|BC Wildfire crews empty sandbags as evacuation orders are rescinded for Grand Forks’ downtown. Photo: Katya Slepian/Black Press|
Most river flood watch postings across the province have ended with a downgrade to high stream advisory also extended to the Shuswap River, Shuswap Lake, South Thompson River, lower Fraser River and Slocan River.
“I expect those high stream advisories will also be pulled down in the coming days,” Campbell said.
For Okanagan Lake, the water level is rising in millimetres rather than centimetres at this point, as the water discharge level into the South Okanagan system at the Penticton dam has been increased to 64 cubic metres per second, an increase of five cubic metres per second over last week.
With the outbreak of wildfires last week in the Thompson region and a West Kelowna neighbourhood, Chris Duffy, executive director of Emergency Planning B.C., said the time buffer between the wildfire and flooding seasons has all but disappeared.
“We used to see a period after flood season had pushed across the province where new grass growth in the spring would start to push up, giving us a bit of a breather between flood and fire season, but that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore,” said Duffy.
The early end to flood season also raises the spectre of potential drought conditions, depending on the level of rainfall over the next two months.
“Even back to 2014 and 2015, we have seen a transition of snowpack melt to earlier in the season which will put pressure on if the weather remains hot and dry like we have seen the last five or six weeks,” added Campbell.
“If those patterns continue, we are going to see more drought conditions later in the summer. But it’s still uncertain at this point where that will be going but it’s something we’ll be watching closely in the weeks ahead.”
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