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‘Dramatic’ snowmelt in the Okanagan-Similkameen shifts flood focus

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. Megan Turcato / Global News

The Okanagan-Similkameen has seen a “dramatic” snowmelt in recent weeks as unseasonably hot temperatures melt record snow basins.

As of May 15, the Okanagan snowpack is 126 per cent of normal, down from 206 per cent on May 1.

The Similkameen has seen an even more dramatic melt. It is now recorded at 56 per cent of normal compared to 210 per cent just two weeks ago.

The Boundary snow basin is 132 per cent of normal, down from 238 per cent.

River Forecast Centre head Dave Campbell said 30-60 per cent of upper elevation snow has melted.

READ MORE: 1,200 evacuation alerts rescinded along the Similkameen River

“We’re now seeing that shift in the flood risk being to areas that drain the higher elevation sites or the larger lake systems around the province that tend to peak later in the season,” he said on Thursday.

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Campbell said the Similkameen River peaked on May 10 and has slowly receded since then.

On Wednesday night, more than 1,200 evacuation alerts along the Similkameen River were rescinded.

Meanwhile, Okanagan Lake is rising at a slower pace than recent days; two centimetres per day compared to three centimetres per day.

Shaun Reimer, section head of Public Safety and Protection with the B.C. government, said the lake could rise another 10 to 20 centimetres, depending on whether the region sees significant rain.

READ MORE: Evacuation alert ends for 288 properties in Tulameen, B.C.

Okanagan Lake is 342.63 metres above sea level which is about 15 centimetres above full pool.

The City of Penticton armoured the Okanagan Lake shoreline with gabion baskets last week in anticipation of a high water mark of 343 metres above sea level.

Emergency officials warned last week that Okanagan Lake could reach the record high levels of 2017.

The Okanagan, including Mission Creek, the Similkameen River and the Tulameen River, has been downgraded from a flood watch to a high streamflow advisory.

WATCH BELOW: Okanagan snowpack still 150 per cent of normal 

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