In 2017 and 2018, Summerland and other communities in the Okanagan Valley and around British Columbia experienced significant spring flooding. This year, the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen is working to ensure the region is ready for the spring freshet. (Black Press file photo)

Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen preparing for spring flooding

Snow pack levels higher than normal in the region

The emergency operations centre at the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen is preparing for the upcoming spring freshet.

Sean Vaisler, emergency services manager at the regional district, said measures have already started in preparation for the snow melt. The work began on Feb. 28.

At present, a sand and sandbag centre has been set up in Okanagan Falls, due to numerous calls for preparedness measures for Shuttleworth Creek.

In addition, a regional sandbag order has been submitted to place sandbags across the region in case they are needed.

A request for qualifications and expressions of interest has been sent to suppliers and contractors who are able to perform work during emergencies.

However, freshet training has been proposed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, the regional district will hold a pre-freshet electronic coordination meeting with local, provincial and federal agencies and partners.

Over the winter, snow levels in the region are between 11t and 150 per cent of normal, and seasonal volume forecasts for select watersheds show similar trends.

Runoff forecasts for the Similkameen River near Hedley are at 121 per cent of normal and the snow basin index is at 112 per cent.

“While snow pack is one risk factor for freshet flooding, snow pack alone cannot predict whether flooding will occur or not,” Vaisler said. “Spring weather is also a critical flood risk factor and the timing and severity of temperature and rainfall patterns are important drivers of flooding irrespective of snow pack levels.”

While last year did not see extensive spring flooding in the region, 2017 and 2018 both had significant flooding throughout the Okanagan Valley and elsewhere in the province.

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