Higher-than-usual snowpack heightens flood risk
By Jennifer Rice
Parliamentary Secretary for Emergency Preparedness
VICTORIA – April showers bring spring flowers, but they can also unleash floods and trigger landslides – a reality that those of us who reside along flood plains, unstable slopes and river banks know all too well.
Changing temperatures, melting snow and higher-than-normal precipitation all contribute to the threat of landslides and flooding, especially when high temperatures converge with significant rainfall and rapid snowmelt. This is a situation that created challenges for much of the Interior last spring.
In 2017, spring flooding forced more than 2,500 British Columbians from their homes, and threatened thousands more with evacuation alerts. By the time the floodwaters receded, Emergency Management BC had dispatched more than 4.4 million sandbags and deployed kilometres of temporary dike structures to the Okanagan region. Despite these and other interventions, many communities are still mopping up almost a year after the floods began.
While a high snowpack does not necessarily lead to a particularly active flood year, it’s been a long, cold winter, and the River Forecast Centre is keeping a close watch on snow melt and water levels.
Wildfire sites in the Cariboo, Central and Southeast regions of the province have been evaluated for potential hazards. This is because wildfire-charred landscapes may lead to increased run-off and put homes at risk from flooding or landslides.
The Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development is reviewing mitigation proposals for construction of protective earthen berms, creek channelization or debris retention basins, and ensuring bridges and culverts are ready.
Emergency Management BC is committed to improving the public safety of all British Columbians. That is why we are investing heavily in flood prevention and protection.
On Feb. 2, 2018, the governments of Canada and B.C. announced funding for 30 projects, valued at approximately $12.1 million (including investments from local governments and NGOs), through the National Disaster Mitigation Program. The B.C. government contributed approximately $5 million. This amount is on top of the $60 million EMBC announced in March 2017, which is earmarked for flood mitigation projects in B.C. communities most at risk.
Prepare your home: caulk any leaks, waterproof your basement, clean clogged drains and gutters, maintain your sump pump and check your sewer lines. A flooded home can spell financial devastation. Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
If you face a threatening flood, park vehicles away from streams and waterways, move electrical appliances to upper floors and make sure to anchor fuel supplies. Listen to local officials if you are asked to evacuate.
Learn to recognize warning signs if you live near a waterway. Changes in water colour or rapid changes in water levels (particularly a drop) can be symptoms of an issue upstream. Notify your local fire, police or public works department immediately if you suspect something is out of the ordinary.
If flooding occurs, stay clear of river and lake shorelines. Fast-flowing waters are fascinating to watch, but river banks can become unstable. Be extra mindful of keeping young children and pets away from the banks and flooded areas. Fifteen centimetres (six inches) of fast-moving water is enough to knock over an adult, and 61 centimetres (two feet) of rushing water can wash away most vehicles.