Flood risks rise with spring freshet

Cooler temperatures toward the end of April has delayed the melt, and mid and high elevation runoff is just beginning.

  • May. 20, 2014 9:00 a.m.

Carolyn Grant

B.C.’s River Forecast Centre has released their latest Snow Bulletin and it shows the East Kootenay snowpack at 135 per cent of normal. The report says that cooler temperatures toward the end of April has delayed the melt, and mid and high elevation runoff is just beginning.

The RDEK is reminding residents that they should be aware and prepared for the possibility of flooding as well.

“We know we are going to see that snow make its way into our rivers and streams over the next few weeks, but it’s important to understand that the level of the snow pack is less significant than the way the melting occurs,” saidLoree Duczek, RDEK Communications Manager. “If we have a stretch of warm days and cool nights, the melt will be completely different than if we go into a string of really hot days, warm nights and rain.

“Having said that, there are a number of things the public can do to help themselves and help us be prepared in the event flooding occurs, including: staying away from fast moving or high water, preparing their properties if they are in an area that typically experiences spring flooding, and reporting any unusual or rapidly changing conditions in rivers and streams.”

Both the RDEK is also warning people to be aware of debris in rivers and streams.

“If people notice creeks or rivers become suddenly chocolatey brown with large chunks of debris or if the flow suddenly decreases or stops, they should report it as soon as possible so the situation can be properly assessed by Provincial Flood Assessors,” Duczek said. “The number to call in these situations is 1-800-663-3456. This is a Provincial coordination centre and is the fastest way to get the best coordinated local response. The only time 9-1-1 should be used is if you feel your life or the lives of others are in danger.”

Additionally, if people are experiencing flooding that is impacting their access or affecting large areas, it should be reported so local emergency program officials are notified.

The RDEK Emergency Programs have secured additional sandbags, are doing a regional inventory of supplies and resources, and are participating in regular updates with Emergency Management BC, the River Forecast Centre and Environment Canada. Emergency Program staff have also completed Flood Observer Training. For information on the RDEK’s Emergency Programs, contact Melody Munro at 250-489-2791 or 1-888-478-7335.

“Living in a mountainous area that enjoys four full seasons, there is always a possibility of seasonal spring flooding as we transition from winter to summer. The best thing we can do to prepare is use common sense: be prepared, stay safe by staying away from rivers and streams and report flooding if you see it,” Duczek said.

Emergency Management BC has extensive flood preparedness information on its website, including everything from packing an emergency kit to proper sandbagging techniques: www.embc.gov.bc.ca