Preparing for weather events in Okanagan communities

2017 flooding a lesson in climate change unpredictability

The need for Okanagan communities to prepare for the eventuality of extreme weather conditions is one of the takeaway lessons from the 2017 valley flooding response review, says the executive director of the Okanagan Basin Water Board.

The independent review was focused on the flooding response management of forests, lands, natural resource operations and rural development ministry staff.

But among the report’s 65 recommendations regarding staffing levels, experience and training, and streamflow forecasting models in the face of climate change, Ann Warwick Sears said the need for emergency preparedness invoked by individual communities was also cited.

Related: Ministry review: No way to prevent flooding

“You can do all the forecasting you want and collect all the data you want, and that is an important piece to do, but when sudden weather changes like we saw last spring occur, communities need to have emergency plans in place for how to deal with flooding, where the risk areas are and what protective measures can be put in place to minimize the damage,” said Warwick Sears.

“Historically, we always seemed to find a way to engineer our way out of high flood events, but one of the things of the 21st century there is a lot less hubris now about engineering our way out of problems. What was a brilliant engineering step to take in the 1950s doesn’t really work as the magic bullet solution today.”

Warwick Sears suggested we can apply some of the preventative damage thinking behind minimizing forest fires towards emergency flood response tactics.

“They are different kinds of natural disasters but we can take some of the fire suppression principles and apply them to flood management as well,” she said.

She cited the LiDAR infra red imaging project the water board is currently working to develop with valley communities, to map out the valley floodplains and generate strategies to address minimizing potential flood damage, as one such preventative action step.

Warwick Sears said she was also happy to see the review reinforce that ministry staff did the best job they could have under the circumstances to manage the level of Okanagan Lake .

“They followed all the protocols and procedures they are asked to follow, and when those protocols were incorrect, they changed them.”

The review revisited the string of unusual weather conditions that led to the flooding— unusually high level of precipitation in the fall of 2016 that saturated the soil; a colder, dry winter that froze the saturated soil; then record-breaking precipitation levels in March and April that expedited the snowmelt runoff.

“The prediction forecast was for a drought summer, and that’s actually what happened. It was just the other unforeseen weather conditions that happened leading up to that. We were fortunate in that June is generally the wettest month in the Okanagan, and if that had been true to form last year, the flooding would have been much worse. But as it turned out, we had almost no rain that month.”

West Kelowna Mayor Doug Findlater said while managing the lake level is a provincial responsibility, his community has taken steps to address potential flood concerns with several waterways such as McDougall Creek, Smith Creek and Powers Creek which flow across the municipality.

“That is the danger for us, the creeks being able to handle the spring runoff, so we’ve been doing dredging projects to remove sediment where the creeks flatten out and around bridges,” he said.

To report a typo, email: edit@kelownacapnews.com.


@BarryGerding
barry.gerding@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Cleanup scheduled for massive dump site near Peachland

The Okanagan Forestry Task Force is cleaning up an illegal dump site near

Traffic being redirected due to grass fire on Drought Hill

Crews responded to a grass fire on Highway 97 and 97C

Lake Country uses bylaw enforcement to try and stop Airport Inn’s operations

Bylaw enforcement is ongoing, said the district community development manager

Kelowna kitchen fire quickly extinguished

A fire in a home on Cadder Avenue was put out Wednesday afternoon

Smoky stop for Greyhound bus

Bus was seen with smoke coming from its brakes, Wednesday.

Pizza places help make dreams come true

The fourth annual Papa John’s Dreams for Kids Day is held today in Kelowna and West Kelowna

Former Social Credit MLA dies at 88

Lyall Hanson was mayor of Vernon in 1981 and moved to provincial politics from 1986-96

Ailing health care biggest hurdle for Okanagan jail

PART SIX: Inmates reportedly wait weeks for broken bones to be seen, challenges with maintaining medical staff

Police searching for escaped prisoner in B.C.

Ralph Whitfield Morris, 83, is serving a life sentence for second-degree murder

B.C. set to introduce pot laws, but years of fine tuning likely: minister

Legislation regulating recreational marijuana is expected to be introduced Thursday

Accused murderer found guilty in unrelated Penticton robbery

McGenn sentenced to 5 years, now faces 2nd-degree murder trial over Abbotsford man’s 2016 death

Canadian driver uses lawn chair as driver’s seat, gets caught

Ontario police detachment caught the male driver during a traffic stop

B.C. moves to restrict pill presses in opioid battle

Minister Mike Farnworth says federal law doesn’t go far enough

VIDEO: Vets, volunteers set up vaccination station for sick bunnies

Volunteers, vets try to stop spread of lethal virus

Most Read