Cold temperatures overnight to Friday morning slowed the melt of an average twice the normal amount of snow in mountains around the Central Okanagan and flows in rivers like Mission Creek stabilized. But the levels didn’t drop.
Those flows have risen rapidly this week as temperatures went up, permitting snowmelt 24 hours a day, and as more snow and rain fell as well.
Localized flooding affected residents living near Priest Creek when debris blocked the normally small creek’s flow, according to assistant Kelowna Fire Chief Jason Brolund.
Another hot spot has been along McDougall Creek in West Kelowna where West Kelowna firefighters worked this week to fill and pile sandbags to protect a road that is the only access for a number of residents in the area.
“Smaller creeks have the least capacity (so can fill and overflow quickly), but we’re also watching larger creeks like Mission, Trepanier and Mill,” he said.
As well, he warned that the deeper-than-normal snowpack will all melt and run down into the valley in the coming weeks, so Okanagan Lake will receive more water than normal and likely rise more than it has in recent years.
All residents near bodies of water should be alert to the possibility of flooding, even due to a blockage such as debris in a creek, and they should be prepared to protect their property from damage from flood waters, he said.
“Now is the time for anyone on the floodplain or who feels they may be threatened by high water, to prepare to protect their property,” he warned.
Bags for sand are available at all local firehalls for those in imminent danger of flooding, but those taking precautions can purchase them at such stores as Buckerfield’s or Wynn Rentals.
“There’s no question we will have a flood season this year,” he said.
As well, Shorts Creek on the Westside has risen so the North Westside Fire Department is keeping an eye on it, said Bruce Smith, spokesman for the Central Okanagan Regional District.
Ideally, he said nice days, but cool evenings and overnights and no rain would help melt the snowpack slowly, but the forecast for the next few days is for warmer temperatures overnight and for showers, which is not the ideal.
He noted that keeping Okanagan Lake at just the right level so there’s enough room for snowmelt in spring, but without letting too much go downstream is a fine balancing act for the water management branch of the natural resource operations ministry.
He warned that everyone should be cautious around creeks because they may rise unexpectedly and banks could be unstable. Pets and children should not be permitted near creeks where fast-rushing water could be dangerous.
Details of flood precautions are available on the website at: regionaldistrict.com/emergencyplan