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Snowpack levels in Okanagan, Boundary regions well below normal

Watch: The amount of snow that melts each spring can pretty much dictate what the water story will be like every summer in the Okanagan. It will either pronounce flooding or drought. At the start of May 2019 the local snowpack was below normal. Megan Turcato has more on what that means for the months ahead.

The risk of flooding in the Okanagan appears low, according to data from the Ministry of Forests and Land’s most recent snow survey and water supply bulletin.

The bulletin, which is published on a regular basis, says snowpack levels for the Okanagan are 69 per cent of normal, while the Boundary region is 71 per cent of normal. That they’re below normal suggests the likely possibility of a flood-free spring.

READ MORE: Low snowpack levels in Okanagan, Boundary, Similkameen regions

“That’s fair to say,” David Campbell, head of B.C.’s River Forecast Centre, told Global News on Wednesday.

However, he added that he “wouldn’t say that the [flood] risk is completely gone.”

“But certainly, in comparison to normal and even more contrasted to last year — where in those areas we had three times as much snow at this time of the year – the risk is much diminished.”

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In 2018, the snowpack level in the Okanagan for May 1 was at 206 per cent of normal, while the Boundary region was at 238 per cent. In 2017, the snowpack level in the Okanagan for May 1 was 147 per cent, while the Boundary region was at 121 per cent.

WATCH BELOW (Aired April 10, 2019): Flood fears recede, but drought fears rise amid lower B.C. snowpack

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“Snow basin indices for May 1st are fairly similar to those for April 1st,” said the latest report. “One significant pattern this year is the difference between low-to-mid elevation and upper elevation snow.

“Particularly through the South Interior, snow below 1,600 metres has almost completely disappeared as of early May. This trend is two to three weeks ahead of when these regions would normally be snow-free (for many locations this was near-record early melt).”

Regarding creek and river runoff, the inflow for Okanagan Lake is at 78 per cent of normal, while the inflow for Kalamalka Lake and Wood Lake was rated at 77 per cent.

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As for the wild snowpack swings the last three years, Campbell said: “We seem to get features in every year that maybe are not unique, but are certainly not to the normal.”

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Campbell said that, for example, the lower snowpack has melted extremely early, but the upper snowpack has barely started to melt, “which is an unusual situation this year that we’re certainly noticing.”

At some point, the upper snowpack will melt, leading to an increase in water levels.

READ MORE: ‘The risks related to snow melt are lower’ — Below-normal snowpacks in Okanagan dampen flood risks

Campbell said for most areas, because the mid-elevation snow is gone, the flood risk has probably already passed, adding that upper-elevation creeks and rivers will soon reach their peak flow.

“Things that we might have saw problems with last year, like the Kettle River and Mission Creek or Similkameen River, they peaked quite early last year, quite high, extremely high,” said Campbell.

“We’re probably expecting that with the warm weather we’ve got now, that we’ll see that peak for the year in the next few weeks.”

For more on the River Forecast Centre, click here.