Adrienne Bootsma and son Jaron watch as Canoe Creek begins to recede in May 2017. (File photo)

Shuswap property owners urged to be proactive on flooding

Higher-than-normal snowpack not necessarily an indicator of flood risk

The higher-than-normal snow pack in the region isn’t necessarily a harbinger of flooding to come.

According to the March 1 BC River Forecast Centre report, the snow pack level in the South Thompson, which includes the Shuswap, is sitting at 127 per cent of normal. Meanwhile, snow pack levels in surrounding areas sit anywhere from 115 to 127 per cent above normal.

The report notes typically 80 per cent of annual snow accumulation occurs by March 1st. However, the report also stresses snow pack alone does not predict whether flooding will occur. Spring weather is also a critical factor.

This point is reiterated by Shuswap Emergency Program co-ordinator Tom Hansen who says it’s still very early in the season to determine flood risk.

“Worst case scenario is if you get snow at higher elevations continuing until the spring, and then you get a quick, sudden change to hot dry temperatures, and then rain on top… and it all melts in a real hurry,” said Hansen, adding the more likely scenario is that snow will continue to melt slowly as the weather heats up.

“Having said that, you can see stuff melting, stuff running here and there a little bit, so don’t wait,” cautioned Hansen. “We want people to start thinking ahead, especially those who have experienced flooding in the past.”

Hansen advised those who have experienced flooding take precautions, from clearing basements of valuables and checking sump pumps, to building up berms and/or placing sandbags to protect from nearby creeks or other water sources. Cleaning gutters and downspouts is also recommended.

Read more: Okanagan snowpack: February relatively normal

Read more: Snow pack in Shuswap mountains reaches 130 per cent of normal

Read more: Recent snowfall in the Shuswap far from record-breaking

Should flooding risk increase, the Columbia Shuswap Regional District, its Shuswap Emergency Program (SEP) and Emergency Management B.C. can put plans into place for mitigation, including placement of sandbags for public use. Hansen said the City of Salmon Arm and the District of Sicamous have a stockpile for those communities.

Regarding potential for landslides come freshet, Hansen said SEP works with different levels of government to monitor the region, including known problem areas.

“We know what’s happened in the past and various drainages that are problems, so we certainly pay attention to those and work with our partners…,” said Hansen, noting the CSRD has collected and continues to collect data on areas where past incidents have occurred such as Bastion Mountain and around Hummingbird Creek in Mara.

“Those are definitely on our radar,” he said.

While much information has been gathered over the years that can be used to protect public infrastructure, Hansen stresses it is up to residents to mitigate risk to private property.

“We don’t have the authority to go in or change people’s private land, so if they live along the lake and the private property has a history of flooding, the onus is on them to do something about it…,” said Hansen.

The CSRD offers variety of emergency management tips and resources on its website at csrd.bc.ca.

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