Jennifer Rice, B.C.’s parliamentary secretary of emergency preparedness, speaks to reporters about the state of flooding issues in the province and the Province of B.C.’s efforts to help communities mitigate that flooding, alongside officials with the B.C. government and regional district. Dustin Godfrey/Western News

No way of forecasting Okanagan floods: engineer

RDOS released an informational video with expert analysis and drone shots of regional floods Wednesday

Despite flooding last spring, an engineer says there is no way the region could have anticipated the water woes hitting South Okanagan-Similkameen this spring.

The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen unveiled a new informational video to provincial officials and media Wednesday morning, including drone shots of area flooding.

The video, released on YouTube to the public Wednesday afternoon, includes expert analysis of some of the regional flooding issues. In the video, water resources engineer Don Dobson with Dobson Engineering said despite some of the flooding that hit the B.C. Interior last year, the region could not have predicted a repeat early on.

Related: Water levels rising across South Okanagan and Similkameen

“Hindsight is a wonderful tool, but in reality we cannot forecast things like this in advance,” Dobson said in the video. “We had people last year in 2017 that were actually forecasting a drought in January and February, because snow packs were so low.”

Though the region had a much deeper snowpack for months this year, Dobson said the region still could not have predicted the flooding, which so far has largely been from spring rains.

“We are starting to see a pattern of wetter winters and deeper snowpacks. Is this part of a changing climate? Could very well be. Three years does not necessarily mean a trend,” Dobson said. “We’re suffering from the impacts, now, of something that’s been going on for more than just one year, but no we couldn’t have predicted it.”

Related: Road repair needed for Highway 3A slide area

Dobson said local wildfires do impact the natural mitigation of flooding, due to diminished or depleted canopy in areas that catch some of the precipitation. Now, snow that might have evaporated into the atmosphere from the branches or leaves instead lands on the ground.

“They’re not drawing any water from the soil anymore. So, the soil is wetter, you’ve got more water in the form of snow on the ground. The soils in the ground area already wet, and so we get higher stream flows,” Dobson said.

In the South Okanagan-Similkameen, 16 homes have been evacuated in the Sportsmens Bowl Road area in Oliver, and 148 properties were evacuated in Tulameen late last week. That evacuation order was since reduced to just 15 properties Tuesday evening.

Related: Efforts increase to save Tulameen

During a media conference Wednesday morning, B.C. parliamentary secretary for emergency preparedness Jennifer Rice said 16 communities across B.C. are under states of local emergency. Rice added that more than two million sandbags have been issued across the province.

“Eleven evacuation orders are in effect across the province, and furthermore, 11 communities are under an evacuation alert,” Rice said, adding more than 200 people throughout B.C. are currently displaced from their homes. “Four reception centres have been opened to support those affected by flooding.”

Related: Rural Oliver man hopes for Highway 97 culvert relief

As well, 160 B.C. Wildfire Service members have been deployed to assist with flood mitigation, while the province engages in further flood mitigation programs.

“We know people are still recovering from last year’s unprecedented fire and flood season,” Rice said. “No doubt, this is a particularly trying time on people.”

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Dustin Godfrey | Reporter

@dustinrgodfrey

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