Forecast centre says river in northeast B.C. could surge to flood conditions

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VANCOUVER — The River Forecast Centre is warning residents of northeastern British Columbia that the Liard River could surge to extremely high flows, creating flood conditions similar to last year.

The forecast centre upgraded the river conditions to a flood warning on Tuesday for the area that includes tributaries around Fort Nelson and Highway 97 towards Watson Lake.

A flood warning is the most serious in a three-tiered alert system used by the forecast centre and it means flooding is expected.

Flood watches remain in effect around the Skeena and Bulkley rivers, while high streamflow advisories cover the province's central Interior and northwest.

The forecast centre says flows on the Liard River could exceed 50-year return period levels later this week or early next week.

The Thompson-Nicola Regional District in British Columbia's southern Interior also advised residents Tuesday to get ready for rising waters after cool weather delayed snowmelt for many weeks.

Kevin Skrepnek, the district's emergency program co-ordinator, says the snowpack remains "extremely high" in certain areas and that has elevated the flood risk, especially on the North and South Thompson rivers.

He says smaller tributaries in the same area could also be affected by possible heavy rain events and the regions that were damaged by last year's atmospheric river flooding or wildfires are especially vulnerable.

The district has deployed sand and sandbags at several locations in the area where flooding is expected.

Evacuation alerts have been posted by the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen for 18 properties along a stretch of the Tulameen River as the weather-delayed spring freshet continues.

In northwestern B.C., emergency officials say as many as 20 buildings are flooded in three communities.

But a break in the weather has slowed rising waterways across the region.

The Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine ordered the evacuation of the Terrace-area communities of Old Remo, New Remo and Usk on Sunday.

It also declared a local state of emergency as the Skeena River flooded low-lying areas, cutting access to the villages.

Roughly 300 people are affected and regional district officials say the river must recede enough to ensure safe passage before residents are allowed to return.

The City of Terrace has said the flood danger is declining and the risk to the city and surrounding communities is now very low, although Environment Canada is forecasting more rain through to next week.

The forecast centre is maintaining a flood watch for the Dean River east of Bella Coola.

Rain could cause the Skeena and Bulkley rivers to swell further, but the modelling isn't suggesting significant rises, the forecast centre says.

High streamflow advisories cover many other northwest B.C. streams and rivers and the central Interior south to the United States border.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 7, 2022.

The Canadian Press

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