BRITISH COLUMBIA: WARM WEATHER AND HIGH SNOWPACK INCREASE FLOOD FEARS
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By Ion Etxebarria
As rivers and creeks surge with melting snow, residents in at least 11 communities in British Columbia are under evacuation alerts, and a regional district has active evacuation orders.
The River Forecast Centre, which monitors and predicts flows in British Columbia's rivers and streams, warns in its last update of "the potential for extremely high flows later this week."
Given current river levels, this week could see significant flooding in many areas due to a high snowpack, high temperatures and a low-pressure trough that could potentially result in 15-30mm of rain through much of the southern third of the province.
The River Forecast Centre has issued the following alerts:
Flood warnings, where river levels have exceeded bankfull or will exceed bankfull imminently and where flooding of areas adjacent to the rivers will result, are active for Nazko River and West Road River in the Cariboo region west of Quesnel.
Flood watches, where river levels are rising and will approach or may exceed bankfull and flooding of areas adjacent to affected rivers may occur, are active for Central Interior including the Bonaparte River, Baker Creek, Nicola River, Guichon Creek, Coldwater River and tributary rivers around Cache Creek, Merritt, Williams Lake, Quesnel and surrounding areas.
In the Thompson-Nicola Regional District, there are currently 69 residences on evacuation order, 67 in Lower Nicola and two in Cherry Creek.
"These orders affect approximately 100-120 people. We are still experiencing spring freshet conditions as the waters continue to rise and the removal of these orders and alerts are dependent on weather and remaining snowpack," explains Michelle Nordstrom spokesperson for the Emergency Operation Center (EOC) of the Thompson-Nicola Regional District.
The Lower Nicola Indian Band has evacuated six residents on Fyall Road. "These are the only evacuations and are mainly due to the fact that they border Guichon Creek and there is heavy machinery working in the area," describes Ruth Tolerton, Information Officer, Emergency Operation Center of the Lower Nicola Indian Band.
In addition, Highway 8 is closed in both directions 10 km west of Merritt city centre, at 10-mile bridge at the Thompson-Nicola Regional District, "with no estimated time of opening for the public," adds Nordstorm.
At the Cariboo Regional District, residents can return to their homes after the district lifted today the evacuation order for 120 residences, located in the Nazco area and Nazko First Nation community.
"Based on the information we have received from the BC River Forecast Centre, the Province's Water Stewardship Department and the Ministry of Environment's weather forecaster, we have determined it is safe for residents to return home. However, with potential for future flooding, the area remains on evacuation alert, and we are asking residents to be prepared," says Emily Epp communications manager of Emergency Operation Center of the Cariboo Regional District and adds "So far we estimate about 20 structures have been damaged by flooding, but we are still gathering information."
At the present, communities with active evacuations alerts, where residents have to be ready to leave on short notice, are: Upper Nicola Indian Band, Okanagan Indian Band, Thompson-Nicola Regional District, Regional District of Fraser Fort George, Central Okanagan Regional District, Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen, Westbank First Nation, Nooaitch Indian Band, the Cariboo Regional District and Nazko First Nation.