A swollen Elk River in the spring of 2018. File photo

Elk River not at risk of flooding unless unseasonal weather returns

BC River Forecast Centre to issue next Snow Survey and Water Supply Bulletin on April 8

Elk Valley residents may need to prepare for flooding earlier than usual if the region gets more unseasonal weather.

Last month, temperatures soared to nearly 20C, setting two new records at the official weather station in Sparwood.

LOOK BACK: Warm week a record breaker for Elk Valley

The unseasonably warm weather sped up the snow melt in lower elevation areas. However, it didn’t have a big impact on overall snowpack in the East Kootenay.

“We’re at 88 per cent of normal, so it’s been a bit of a low year,” Head of BC River Forecast Centre Dave Campbell said last week.

“With the warm weather last week, we did start to see melts of lower elevation, valley bottom snow, but nothing really in terms of the mountain snowpack that tend to feed the rivers, so we haven’t seen a whole lot of movement in the rivers themselves.”

LOOK BACK: RDEK sets up self serving sandbagging stations as snow melt continues

The snowpack is monitored via a network of automated weather stations with instruments that measure the air content on the snow. Staff also go out into the field once a month to take measurements.

The River Forecast Centre uses river gauges to monitor water levels and forecast flood risk, with several gauges installed along the Elk River.

A high streamflow advisory will be issued when the river is rising or expected to rise rapidly, followed by a flood watch or warning.

Campbell said with numbers trending down, the East Kootenay snowpack is expected to drop to 80-85 per cent when the next Snow Survey and Water Supply Bulletin is issued on April 8.

At this range, the region is not considered to be at risk of flooding, however, that could change if unseasonal temperatures return.

“If we continue to get warm weather then we could see the melt season happen a little bit earlier this year, so that just might be a factor as well, that we might have to be prepared a little earlier than normal with the warmer temperatures,” said Campbell.

The next bulletin will include an updated seasonal flood risk forecast, visit the River Forecast Centre website for more information.

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