B.C. flood fears easing — if the weather co-operates: Officials
It’s not over, but the worst of it might be — if the weather co-operates. That’s the latest update on flooding across B.C., which at its peak forced thousands from their homes across the Southern Interior.
Emergency Management BC said Thursday that just 37 evacuation orders, covering 341 properties remain in effect.
About 7,000 more properties remain on evacuation alert across the province, and the agency said that number could actually climb as evacuation orders are downgraded.
The BC River Forecast Centre said that continued warm weather has led to a significant decrease in snowpacks at upper elevations in B.C. mountains.
“About 30 to 60 per cent of the snowpack at upper elevations is melted, and so really now we’re 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,” said spokesperson Dave Campbell.
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Campbell also had good news for communities along the lower Fraser River, which he said is expected to remain at about current levels over the weekend. At the key Mission Gauge measuring point, the river was at about 5.85 metres on Thursday. Above six metres, flooding is expected in low-lying areas.
On Thursday, the City of Abbotsford rescinded an evacuation alert for residents of the Glen Valley area.
“At this point, we’re not expecting that there’s a potential for extremely high flows from the snowmelt alone, so we’ll be watching in the coming week or two where we’re quite full on the river,” Campbell said.
“But the key risks are really going to be around any kind of extreme rainfall. At the moment, that kind of pattern isn’t in the forecast.”
There are positive signs in the Okanagan as well, where Okanagan Lake continues to rise but at a slower pace.
The lake has gone from climbing about three centimetres a day to about two centimetres a day, said Shaun Reimer with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.
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“Based on the current sort of projections and conditions, we’ll probably continue to see that reduction on how fast the lake is rising up,” he said.
“It would not surprise me that our inflows would start matching our outflows in somewhere around the week to 10-day mark, and that would indicate the point where we would be peaking on the lake.”
Reimer added that that forecast could change in the face of significant rainfall.
Around Kelowna, the Central Okanagan Regional District said Mill Creek water levels have stabilized and some flood protection measures are now being redeployed to other areas.
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Campbell added that the Similkameen River appears to have hit its peak back on May 10.
However, challenges remain in other areas. Flood watches remain in place for the Shuswap River and the Slocan River in the Kootenays.
Campbell said there is plenty of snowpacks left in the area around the Slocan, and that flooding is possible this weekend.
Water levels along the North Thompson River near Kamloops are also expected to continue rising and peak this weekend. Campbell said the river is forecast to rise about 30 more centimetres bringing it in line with last year, but still about a half metre lower than in 2012.
Along the south Thompson, Campbell said levels are still rising thanks to snowmelt, and are expected to top out in the coming weeks.
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