B.C. seasonal forecast suggests long cool spring, flood risk in high snowpack regions
April 14, 2023 By Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press
VICTORIA — A long, cool and wet spring is in the forecast for British Columbia, but temperatures are expected to start rising next month, increasing the risk of flooding in creeks, streams and rivers.
B.C.’s Ministry of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness provided a seasonal weather update Thursday, highlighting the province’s drought, flood, wildfire and other weather risks.
“As we reflect on the last two years and beyond, we cannot ignore the extreme hardships many British Columbians faced due to devastating wildfires, floods and landslides,” Bowinn Ma, emergency management and climate readiness minister, said at a virtual news conference.
“Homes have been destroyed, businesses have been affected, families have been displaced,” she said. “Our climate is changing and we must take action now to adapt to the new realities that we face.”
Ma said forecasters monitoring B.C.’s weather, streamflows and wildfire activity will help the province and its residents prepare for potential disasters.
B.C. has recently endured two record wildfire seasons, the destruction of the community of Lytton by fire during a heat wave that killed 619 people across the province in 2021, and the atmospheric rain event that fall that flooded Fraser Valley farms and triggered landslides that shut down major highways and rail links.
Ma said she wasn’t forecasting floods, wildfires or heat waves this year, but urged people to be prepared just in case.
“Most of the people in our province will never need their emergency kit or grab-and-go bag, but if they do, they will be glad to have one,” she said.
Armel Castellan, a federal warning preparedness meteorologist, said the cool spring will result in below-normal temperatures for much of the province for the next month.
“We are going to have our weather dissipated by the cooler temperatures offshore of Baja, California, B.C. and Alaska,” he said. “This is going to have an influence on our weather. It’s going to keep things cooler and currently it looks like they might be a little bit wetter in the short term.”
Weather data reveals low amounts of precipitation across much of B.C. over the past nine months, especially in the Kelowna area, and officials will be watching for prolonged heat and rain events in the coming months, said Castellan.
David Campbell, head of B.C.’s River Forecast Centre, said mountain snowpacks are slightly below normal in much of the province, with some regional variation.
As of April 1, the snowpack in the Interior is rated as moderate to high, and high in the Chilcotin, Lower Thompson and Boundary regions, he said.
Flood hazards will increase in areas of high snowpack, with the riskiest months being May to June as temperatures warm, said Campbell.
“But coming into the season, nothing is really jumping out as extreme or something that’s not been experienced in the potentially recent past,” he said. “One of the real wild cards, and that’s the point we want to get across, is uncertainty over the weather that we’re going to see over the next couple of months, which is really going to drive things.”
The B.C. Wildfire Service says B.C. has already reported 11 wildfires since April 1.