As temperatures begin to warm up in B.C.’s Southern Interior, spring melt could begin soon causing sudden changes to lake and river levels.
The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen (RDOS) is reminding area residents who live near floodplains or who have experienced spring flooding before to be flood-ready.
“What we mean when we say that: homeowners should sandbag their properties if they live near a floodplain or river,” said RDOS Emergency Services manager Sean Vaisler.
“Have a plan for your house, that really is the biggest thing. Have an evacuation plan, an emergency plan for yourself, for your children, for your animals in the event that an emergency alert or order happens that it won’t be as stressful.”
The RDOS said the atmospheric river event in November has made this year’s spring freshet especially unpredictable.
“Obviously there was a big change in the morphology meaning that the topography over the landscape where the river is, where the dikes were impacted — so there is an unknown in that sense,” said Vaisler.
The RDOS and the River Forecast Centre are actively monitoring water levels and snowpack conditions.
“May and June, it is what we call the wet season for the Okanagan when we see the heaviest rain. That in combination with how the snow is melting determines whether we see flooding or not,” said River Forecast Centre section head Dave Campbell.
According to the River Forecast Centre, as of early March, river levels throughout the Okanagan are normal or below normal.
“The March 1 measurements … showed that the Okanagan region was at 86 per cent of normal for that March 1 period,” Campbell.
“The Similkameen River, the headwater is up into Manning Park and upstream from Hedly and Princeton in that 100 per cent-to-normal range.”
Meanwhile, the RDOS is advising Tulameen residents that the lake is currently rising. Due to the atmospheric river event, large amounts of debris have collected in areas along several rivers and streams.
The RDOS is in the process of opening sandbag centres in high-risk areas. Information regarding locations, alerts and orders will be available on the Regional District website.