Waters: Flood watch becoming an annual event

Much higher than normal snowpack in the mountains renews fear of flooding

There’s snow in them thar hills.

And, as the Okanagan experienced last year, the white stuff up there will soon become the wet stuff down here.

Unlike last year, the folks tasked with heading off the flooding threat appear to be one step ahead of Mother Nature—at least for now. But that is not helping them rest any easier.

The level of Okanagan Lake has been gradually dropped over the last month to compensate for the torrent of water flowing down creeks and other tributaries into the lake thanks to the sudden shift in temperature and melting snow at higher elevations.

But as was the case last year, the weather can be unpredictable and rain coupled with the current warm temperatures could throw all that planning and preparation out the window.

Last year, the public was warned by local emergency response officials that with climate change, spring flooding like we saw last spring could become the new normal. And that has to worry not only provincial and local officials, but the public too.

On Monday, in a conference call with reporters, provincial officials said the latest forecasts indicate more water than originally thought will flow into Okanagan Lake before the end of July, thanks in large part of the historically large amounts of snow in the surrounding mountains.

In the Okanagan for instance, the snowpack now sits at more than double the normal amount, the highest recorded measurement since 1980. And this is not the only place where it may feel like summer down below but winter up top. Areas like the Boundary, the Kootenays and Upper Fraser West near Prince George are also experiencing substantially higher snowpacks than normal.

That has provincial flood watchers worried.

So sandbags are being distributed, B.C. Wildfire firefighters are already here helping out and kilometres of gabian and bladder dam equipment have been deployed, much of it here in the Okanagan.

It’s not clear if we are headed for a repeat of last year’s flooding, which saw the level of the lake relentlessly rise to record levels over the course of nearly three months, leaving a stunned population to grapple, seemingly helpless, with its bid to hold back the consistently seeping water.

When the flooding subsided, municipalities up and down the Okanagan were left with big bills for repair work, repairs that in some cases have yet to be completed.

What the rest of the season has in store for this area when it comes to water levels in local creeks, streams and lakes has yet to be determined, but everything points to another soggy season—even if it is under sunny skies.

So, as the temperature heats up and we start to slather on the sunscreen to protect ourselves from what appears to be an early start to the summer-like weather, don’t put away those wellies just yet.

The simple fact of the matter is at this time of year, they have now become a necessary fashion accessory.

Alistair Waters is the assistant editor of the Capital News.

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