Heavy snowpack in B.C. mountains means extreme weather could bring floods, forecasters say

·2 min read
Rain falls on the swollen Fraser River at the New Westminster Quay on Thursday. A high streamflow advisory is in effect for the river from Quesnel to the Pacific Ocean. (Martin Diotte/CBC - image credit)
Rain falls on the swollen Fraser River at the New Westminster Quay on Thursday. A high streamflow advisory is in effect for the river from Quesnel to the Pacific Ocean. (Martin Diotte/CBC - image credit)

An unusually high snowpack in B.C.'s higher mountain elevations this June means that some parts of the province could see severe flooding if there are extreme weather events over the next few weeks, forecasters said Thursday.

River Forecast Centre head Dave Campbell told reporters that the average snowpack is currently 165 per cent of normal for this time of year, following a cool start to the spring that has seen snowmelt about three or four weeks later than usual.

But that snow is beginning to melt, and rivers in the Interior are starting to reach peak levels, he added.

"We are expecting that with these rivers full, we really are vulnerable to any type of extreme weather events that might occur," Campbell said.

That could mean either intense rainfall or unusual heat.

There's currently little risk of hot weather in the short-term forecast, but this weekend is expected to be rainy up and down the B.C. coast., according to Armel Castellan, a warning preparedness meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada.

Castellan said cooler weather is expected to continue until mid-July when things will start warming up.

Emergency Management B.C. is asking people living in areas vulnerable to flooding to pack grab-and-go bags and reach out to friends and family to make contingency plans just in case of an evacuation.

As of Thursday afternoon, there is one flood warning in effect for the Liard River basin in B.C.'s northeast.

Flood watches have been issued for the Skeena River basin, the Dean River below Tanswanket Creek and the Middle Fraser basin. High streamflow advisories are in place in the northwest, the Stikine River basin, the North Thompson and the Fraser River all the way from Quesnel to the Pacific Ocean.

A flood warning is the highest level of advisory issued by the River Forecast Centre. It suggests an evacuation alert may be issued, followed by an evacuation order, meaning people must immediately leave their property.

A flood watch indicates river levels may exceed the bank, and flooding could occur.

A high streamflow advisory means river levels are rising rapidly but no major flooding is expected.

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