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East Kootenay snowpack 62 per cent of normal

Snow basin indicies are down across the province as first snow survey data released
As East Kootenay ski resorts gear up for the season, the first snowpack data has been released by the province, showing snow basin indices are down across the board. Gillian Francis photo.

The East Kootenay snow pack is significantly below the seasonal January average, mirroring similar trends across B.C. and raising concerns about ongoing drought concerns heading into the summer, according to the latest data released by the province.

The East Kootenay snow basin index is 62 per cent of normal, while the province is experiencing an average of 56 per cent of normal, as over 15 snow stations across B.C. recorded all-time lows. Elsewhere in the region, the West Kootenay is at 57 per cent of normal, while the Upper Columbia is at 59 per cent of normal.

Compared to this same time last year, in 2023, the East Kootenay snow basin index was 95 per cent of normal, while the province was 82 per cent of normal.

“Normal” is the average data at a snow station from 1991-2020, according to the province.

The data was released in the first snow survey and water bulletin issued by the BC River Forecast Centre on Jan. 10.

“For the first week of January, snow at the automated snow weather stations has accumulated at a seasonal rate,” reads the report’s summary. “There are early concerns for drought extending into the spring and summer with the extremely low snow pack throughout the province. With three or more months left for snow accumulation, seasonal snow packs can still change significantly based on weather patterns through the remainder of the season.”

The report notes that B.C. is forecasted to experience El Nino conditions in the first three months of the year, which is typically linked to to warmer winter temperatures. However, there tends to be a large range in variability in B.C. snowpacks during El Nino conditions, as the report notes that 2006-07 had an extremely high snowpack develop during an El Nino winter.

Low snow basin indices tend to signal increased potential for drought conditions in the summer months.

“Upcoming challenges related to drought could include water supply issues, low groundwater levels, inadequate river levels for cultural needs, environmental flows, agricultural use, power generation, recreational use, wildfire risk, and more,” reads the report. “Low snow pack significantly decreases spring freshet flood hazards, especially in the B.C. Interior. Conditions can still change significantly depending on the remainder of the season’s weather conditions.”

During the last summer season, much of the province — including the East Kootenay region — experienced drought conditions, some more severely than others.

The City of Cranbrook implemented escalating water restrictions in response to water levels hitting various benchmarks at the Phillips Reservoir.

Trevor Crawley

About the Author: Trevor Crawley

Trevor Crawley has been a reporter with the Cranbrook Townsman and Black Press in various roles since 2011.
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