With spring conditions poised to impact water levels along New Brunswick’s Saint John River, officials cautioned on Friday it’s still too early to predict what might happen during the upcoming flood season.
Officials from New Brunswick River Watch told reporters that snowpack conditions across the province are similar to last year, when there was little impact from flooding. But they said snow depth is only one factor that could determine the extent of potential flooding along the river and its tributaries.
Don Fox, director of air and water sciences for the Environment Department, said the main driver of flooding is day-to-day weather.
“Regardless of the state of the snowpack, there could be a significant flood, no flood at all or somewhere in between,” he said.
Overall, Fox said the snow depth in the Upper Saint John River Valley is comparable to last year, adding that there is “slightly less” snow than last year in more southern parts of the province.
“There is still a lot of water in the snowpack and there still is a lot of snow,” he said. “If all that comes down all at once, things could get bad, so I wouldn’t make a prediction this far out.”
Potential ice jams are another factor that could cause severe flooding, especially if there is a significant freeze prior to a thaw, Fox warned.
He added that the latest flood forecast issued Friday is not predicting overland flooding in any areas for the next few days.
“So far, the water levels in many of our rivers are very low, so our rivers can still take a fair amount of water without causing problems,” Fox said.
Officials said that despite two good years in 2020 and 2021, people need to take precautions, including moving their belongings to higher ground if their properties are near a waterway or are prone to flooding.
Some of the worst flooding in recent memory occurred in late April and early May of 2018, when rising water levels damaged homes and cottages and led to the temporary closure of the Trans-Canada Highway near Jemseg, N.B.
Greg MacCallum, director of the Emergency Measures Organization, said it’s still a “coin toss” as to how the overall conditions will affect potential flooding.
“This is really the beginning of very close scrutiny of our river system,” MacCallum said. “The thing we don’t ever want to see is rapidly rising temperatures accompanied by heavy rainfall events.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 11, 2022.