Severe thunderstorm watch for East Kootenay

A large thunderstorm front is predicted to reach the Elk Valley by the late afternoon.

At 11:00 AM this morning, Environment Canada released a severe thunderstorm watch for East Kootenay, north including Invermere and south including Cranbrook and surrounding areas.

This is said to be caused by a coastal cold front which will sweew eastward across the mountains and into the southwest interior this afternoon.

This may trigger the development of severe thunderstorms. This front will continue to advance eastwards into the Kootenays this evening.

This could result in strong wind gusts, heavy downpours and hail.

Environment Canada is warning the public that strong winds can toss loose objects, damage weak buildings, break branches off trees and overturn large vehicles. When thunder roars, go indoors.

Mainroads reiterated this warning, and said they plan to schedule extra patrols as required to monitor the expected increased water flows in the watercourses in the region.

Mainroads would like to remind the public during these high flow conditions to keep an extra eye on children and pets, keeping them away from creek and river edges.

If you see a concern that affects the Ministry Roadways do not hesitate to contact the 24 hour Communication Centre at 1-800-665-4929.

Also today, the RDEK released a statement saying that they have established two more self-fill sandbag stations, and are encouraging area residents to be aware of the potential for rising or rapidly changing conditions in area waterways.

“We have just set up a self-fill sandbag station at the Jaffray Community Hall and at the Elk River Inn. These are in addition to the sandbag stations at Centennial Centre in Kimberley and at the City of Cranbrook Public Works Yard,” said RDEK Emergency Services Coordinator Travis Abbey.

While there is no new active flooding in the East Kootenay, water levels are running high in many channels and expected to rise.

These sandbag stations are equipped with both sand and bags. However, residents need to bring their own shovels and gloves. The RDEK recommends that sandbags be filled ¾ full with the ends folded over for best compaction and effectiveness when placing them.

“It is important that we all take steps to prepare ourselves and act early rather than later,” added Abbey.

“Anyone who is along rivers or creeks or in low lying areas prone to flooding is encouraged to take steps to prepare themselves and their properties in the event the area experiences more widespread flooding.”

Earlier in March, several East Kootenay homes experianced early season flooding, caused by low-elevation snow melt.

With warming temperatures and rain in the forecast, municipalities are preparing for spring runoff.

“The amount of snow in the snowpack is not as much of an issue as the rate at which it melts,” said Abbey.

“If we get lots of intense rain or a hot spell, there is certainly a possibility that we could experience flooding. As a result, we want all residents to be prepared and to take steps now to help prevent damage to their homes.”

Residents who see, or are experiencing, widespread flooding are encouraged to report it to the Provincial Emergency Control Centre at 1-800-663-3456. This is the fastest way to activate local emergency program personnel.

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