Kelowna’s mayor says his latest Internet video is not an attempt to steer blame for the current flooding situation with Okanagan Lake away from local authorities.
Colin Basran said while he has heard public comments asking what could have been done to alleviate the high water level in the lake, he wanted to provide information for the public about how the current situation evolved.
“I thought it was a good way to get information out,” said Basran.
“It’s part of my job to inform our residents. I’ve heard loud and clear: ‘How did we get to this point?’”
In the video Basran, a former television reporter, interviews several experts, including representatives from Environment Canada, the B.C. River Forecast Centre, the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and local emergency operations centre officials.
It is made clear by both Cindy Yu of Environment Canada and Dave Campbell of the B.C. River Forecast Centre that the weather that created the current conditions was unexpected.
In repeating information already reported about percipitation levels, Wu said while this past winter was cold, we didn’t receive the amount of precipitation (in the form of rain and snow) during December, January and February that would normally have been expected—just 70 per cent of normal. It was the seventh driest December, January and February on record.
But March through April saw a lot of rain and snow at higher elevations—121.7 millimetres. The average is 86 millimetres.
Campbell said early on, the snowpack in the mountains was only 86 per cent of normal but the snowpack quickly increased to 147 per cent of normal after March 1. Warmer than usual weather then melted the snow quickly sending water cascading down area creeks into the lake, raising the lake’s level.
The ministry’s Shaun Reimer said deciding how much water to release from the lake through dams at its south end is a “balancing” act, that has to take into account many factors, including more water downstream and the impact on tourism if the lake’s level is low. For several weeks, more water was flowing into the lake per day than could be released.
In the video, Kelowna city manager Ron Mattiussi, who is acting as one of the Central Okanagan Emergency Operations Centre’s directors, calls the situation a “perfect storm,” a very late snow pack with the addition of a lot of water warm weather.
“I think looking for a scapegoat, looking for someone to blame, is irresponsible,” he says.
Basran said the latest video is not an attempt to bypass traditional media, but rather an additional source of information for the public.
He said people get their news from a variety of sources nowadays and social media is one of them
And he added it would be different if he refused to talk to the news outlets and only used social media to communicate to the public. But that is not the case.
“It’s an effective tool, he said, adding he plans to use social media more in future to present city information directly to the public.
The video is the latest in a number Basran made in recent weeks concerning the flooding. He has also posted short videos urging residents to protect their property, promoting boating safety and reminding viewers Kelowna has a lot of recreation and entertainment options to offer residents and visitors despite the high water levels in the region.