Ministry of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness
With warming temperatures increasing the likelihood of rising water levels, British Columbians are encouraged to prepare for potential spring floods, while the Province, local governments and First Nations work together to keep people and communities safe.
High-elevation snowpacks have not yet developed to the point that increased heat will cause significant runoff. At this time, forecasters are not anticipating a flood hazard over this current warming period for rivers lying in higher elevations, including larger rivers such as the Fraser River.
Mid-elevation areas may experience an increased flood hazard this weekend in low-lying areas near river and streams. This includes the Chilcotins, areas around Prince George, Quesnel, Williams Lake, Cache Creek, and throughout the central Interior and smaller watersheds in the Okanagan and Boundary. These areas include the territories of the Tŝilhqot’in, Lheidli-T’enneh, Nazko, Xatśūll, Bonaparte, Skeetchestn, Lhoosk’uz Dené and Williams Lake (T’exelc) First Nations. People should steer clear of riverbanks and shorelines during periods of high flow.
The River Forecast Centre will monitor the situation and remains vigilant, watching for potential transitions to wet or warm weather that could contribute to an increased flood hazard. Advisories will be updated when appropriate. The ministry will continue its regular co-ordination with communities to ensure they have the support and resources they need.
First Nations and local governments will often have the most up-to-date information. Visit their websites and follow their social media accounts. Always listen to directions from local officials. Flood-risk information and active evacuation alerts and orders can be found at emergencyinfobc.ca (https://emergencyinfobc.ca) or @emergencyinfoBC on Twitter.
The River Forecast Centre website has updated flood warning and advisory notifications, including a map of areas of heightened flood risk. The different levels of warnings and advisories include:
* High Streamflow Advisory: River levels are rising or expected to rise rapidly, but no major flooding is expected. Minor flooding in low-lying areas is possible.
* Flood Watch: River levels are rising and may overflow.
* Flood Warning: River levels have flooded or will flood imminently.
Spring and early summer often bring the most severe floods due to melting snow, rainfall, storm surges, ice jams or damage to infrastructure, such as dikes and dams.
To ensure people are ready in the event of a flood, here are some useful tips:
* Protect your home: Prepare for possible flooding of low-lying areas by moving equipment and other objects from these areas to higher ground, where possible. Clear perimeter drains, eavestroughs and gutters. If you think you need sandbags to protect your home, you should contact your local government for more information.
* Create grab-and-go bags: Assemble an individual grab-and-go bag for each member of your household with the essentials you will need if you are asked to evacuate.
* Recognize the danger signs: If you live near a waterway, a change in water colour or rapid change in water level (especially a drop) could indicate a problem upstream. Call your local fire, police or public works department immediately if you suspect something out of the ordinary.
If you face a threatening flood situation, park vehicles away from streams and waterways, move electrical appliances to upper floors and make sure to anchor fuel supplies. Listen to local officials if you are asked to evacuate.
In the event of flooding, here are some tips about what to avoid:
* Steer clear of river shorelines: Keep away from river edges and shorelines. During periods of high flow, riverbanks may be unstable and more prone to sudden collapse. Stay well away and keep young children and pets away from the banks of fast-flowing streams and flooded areas or bridges.
* Do not drive through flood water: Never attempt to drive or walk in flood water. Just 15 centimetres (six inches) of fast-moving water can knock over an adult. Sixty-one centimetres (two feet) of rushing water can carry away most vehicles, including SUVs and pickup trucks.
* Landslide risk: Heavy rain and snowmelt may contribute to landslides and dangerous debris in creeks and waterways. Be safe and do not go down to watch the rushing water. If you notice trees beginning to lean or bend near your home, or cracks developing in the hillside, contact local authorities.
It is important to prepare your family for any hazards. This includes identifying friends and family who may be able to provide shelter and support to your family should an evacuation order be issued. By doing this, you are helping ensure local accommodation is available for those who have no other option.
More details are available in the PreparedBC Flood Preparedness Guide, which contains useful information to help British Columbians understand what to do if their home or community is at risk of flooding.
Even though temperatures will be seasonally warm this weekend, the cold temperatures of rivers and lakes pose a risk of hypothermia to people exposed for a prolonged period of time.
The warming weather is also expected to destabilize the snowpack, resulting in dangerous and destructive avalanches. Avalanche Canada, in partnership with the Province and Parks Canada, issued a Special Public Avalanche Warning for Western Canada that applies until the end of Monday, May 1, 2023. All backcountry users, including hikers and scramblers, and anyone in avalanche terrain, are advised to leave a wide margin for error during this warming period, stick to simple, low-angle terrain and avoid all overhead avalanche hazards.