Snow melt to test rivers

Alanna Kelly

Sunshine and scorching temperatures is a welcome sight to many living in the Okanagan Valley, but officials at the River Forecast Centre are saying it will cause high flows of water.

Unseasonable high temperatures have sprung up across the valley with the warmest day falling on Thursday with a forecast of 25 C. Average temperatures for this time of year in the Okanagan Valley is between 17 C and 18 C.

David Campbell, head of the River Forecast Centre said this will cause the freshet to really start.

“Three, four, five days of that kind of temperature and we’ll start to see much more accelerated snow melt,” said Campbell.

Rapid snow melt does have potential to cause high flow conditions and problematic conditions in smaller tributary systems throughout the Southern Interior.

“Areas in the Okanagan, particularly in the South Okanagan where things have been challenged in the last week or so, we expect those areas to be exacerbated with this melt,” he said.

He added tributaries up and down the Okanagan will be challenged.

Flooding has already been a problem in the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen this spring, where an evacuation order for 12 properties north of Oliver was issued on Saturday.

The regional district warned that the flooding posed an immediate danger to "life safety" and another 17 addresses were put on evacuation alert, told they must be ready to leave on a moment's notice.

The Osoyoos Indian Band also had several homes evacuated on Friday, due to concerns about a potential landslide, but residents were allowed to return Saturday.

Last week, the provincial government approved financial assistance for those impacted by overland flooding or landslides.

Melting snow and soggy ground makes this a particularly dangerous time of year to be around rivers and streams and people should take caution when they're near waterways, Campbell said.

"We get a lot of ground saturation. The banks of rivers are very unstable," he said. "Whether there's a flood warning out or not, they can be very hazardous this time of year."

Snowpack has increased by upwards of 15 per cent since April 1, and the melt has been delayed by two to three weeks.

“We have seen ongoing snow accumulation across the province particularly in areas we have already seen very high snowpacks,” said Campbell.

According to Campbell, the real concern this week will be smaller river systems through the Southern Interior as a result of warm weather.

“There is potential for some rain at the end of this cycle so that could put additional pressures,” he said.

– with files from The Canadian Press

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