Dry March cuts Kootenay snowpack level

·2 min read

Officials monitoring high-elevation snowpack say the recent warm and dry weather has the East and West Kootenay at or just below average for the snow level amounts for this time of year.

“By early April, approximately 95% of the annual BC snowpack has typically accumulated,” says the monthly snowpack bulletin from the Province’s River Forecast Centre. “The risk of spring flooding is elevated due to the above normal snowpack across the entire province.”

However, not all parts of the province are the same. While snowpack is more than double in some areas, like the extreme northwest of the province, the Kootenays are actually at par or lower than normal – partly because of a very dry and warm March (see ‘West Koots has driest March since the 1960s’ elsewhere in this issue of the Valley Voice).

The East Kootenay is showing snowpack at 93% of normal, while the West Kootenay is just at, or slightly below, the normal snowpack level. Individual snow stations in this area show a wide range of levels, from 112% at St. Leon’s Creek, to just 74% of normal at the Nelson station.

As the province enters into freshet season, that’s a good sign.

“An upcoming warm spell beginning the week of April 12 will kickstart snow melt at low and mid elevations throughout the province,” says the snow bulletin. “The warm weather may create challenges for smaller creeks and lower elevation areas; however, the upcoming warm weather may be considered a positive for larger, higher elevation watersheds.”

However, the River Forecast Centre is more cautious about predicting the chances of flooding or other snowmelt problems, noting a lot of weather factors have to come together before one can say if there’ll be flooding or not.

“While snowpack is one risk factor for freshet flooding, snowpack alone cannot predict whether flooding will occur or not,” says the report. “Spring weather is also critical, where the timing and severity of temperature and rainfall patterns are important drivers of flooding irrespective of snowpack…

“Scenarios that could exacerbate flood risk this year include prolonged cool weather followed by a rapid shift to persistent hot weather (particularly in May), or persistent wet weather or extreme short-term rainfall. Favourable scenarios would include continued dry weather and seasonal temperatures.”

By this time of year, about 95% of the season’s snow has fallen.

John Boivin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice