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Ingredients are there for N.B. flooding, but too early to forecast: officials

N.B. launches river watch program
WATCH: The province launched its river watch program on Monday. After two years of record-breaking spring floods, the Emergency Measures Organization says more of the same is possible. Travis Fortnum reports.

Public safety officials in New Brunswick say people living in flood-prone areas of the province should be prepared for rising waters, but it’s too early to say what this year’s flood season will bring.

The province launched its annual River Watch Program on Monday, and officials say there is the potential for flooding along the St. John River again this year.

“The ingredients are always there, every year, but the main driver is day-to-day weather,” said Jasmin Boisvert, a water sciences specialist for the province. “Are you going to get the very rapid warm-up? Are you going to get a gradual melt? Are you going to get rain on top of a fast melt? It all depends and these things you can’t forecast far in advance.”

Meteorologist Jill Maepea said snow depth in the upper river basin is about 20 per cent greater than average right now.

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READ MORE: New Brunswick EMO advising residents to brace for flood season

She said the long-term forecast for the next three months is for average temperatures that are slightly above normal and precipitation that is slightly below normal.

But Boisvert said the most important factors for flooding are daily temperatures and precipitation.

“The amount of snow is not a good predictor of flooding. Regardless of amounts there could be a significant flood, no flood at all, or somewhere in between,” he said.

Greg MacCallum, director of New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization, said people should be prepared, and that includes having flood insurance.

“If folks are out there wondering if they are going to flood again, we can’t tell them at this point, but we can say you should always be prepared for that possibility,” MacCallum said.

“The river is still frozen. The tributaries are still frozen. We have a ways to go,” he said.

Flood-prone roads to be raised, Saint John councillor says
Flood-prone roads to be raised, Saint John councillor says

New Brunswick has experienced a number of years of record flooding that have damaged homes and cottages and temporarily closed a portion of the Trans-Canada Highway.

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The annual River Watch website is now online.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 9, 2020.