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What the Province learned from the flood so far

KelownaNow has been checking with the City of Kelowna, CORD Emergency BC and other government officials on the current state of the flood and trying to get a sense of what they've learned in order to be better prepared for next year.

Shaun Reimer is the keeper of the Okanagan Lake Dam.

He decides how much water leaves Okanagan Lake everyday and travels south.

Throughout the 2017 flood, Reimer has helped inform the public on various points, including how much water the dam can let out at one time.

As lake levels are slowly starting to drop and the amount of rain and snow has dissipated, analysts and experts are starting to look back on what happened and what could have been done differently.

Here's what Reimer had to say on his reflections so far from the 2017 flood in the Okanagan.

First, the dam is currently releasing 79 cubic metres per second, proving, there's still a lot of water to release before levels are back to normal.

"This is the highest daily discharge from the dam on record," said Reimer.

<who> Photo Credit: KelownaNow

Reimer couldn't comment without mentioning the unusually high levels of precipitation and snow experienced in the Okanagan this season.

"Our snowpack was low in January through March and only average at the beginning of April. Our dam releases reflected that data. We had a similar snowpack early-on in 2015 which resulted in drought conditions," he said.

"Most years, those indicators are spot-on and result in no issues regarding lake level management."

Still Reimer said he and his team are working to improve inflow forecasting and snow monitoring in hopes of predicting when to expect high water next time.

"Ultimately though, a year like this will only be understood ahead of time when a meteorologist can predict precipitation much further into the future," he added.

<who> Photo Credit: KelownaNow

Again, Reimer pointed to the snowpack what followed in the latter winter months.

"This was about a dry winter with a low snowpack followed by unprecedented and unusual rain (snow in the mountains) in the March through May period," said Reimer.

"According to Environment Canada, the precipitation in the Okanagan for March through May was fourth highest on record for the Kelowna station, second highest on record for Vernon, and highest on record for Penticton."

According to Reimer, both the Vernon and Penticton stations have been keeping records since 1903 and 1908.

The fact that the March and April rains completely saturated the soil, didn't help the runoff. It had soil to drain into and instead headed straight for the rivers and lakes.

"The inflows into the lake this spring were more intense and came more quickly than we have ever experienced and yet the snowpack never reached extreme levels in the Okanagan."

"For something like a flood, that rarely happens in the Okanagan, it's likely that there are areas to learn from."

As far as what the province is doing to be better prepared, Reimer said they are reviewing a variety of processes.

"The province has been documenting impacts at different lake levels to understand vulnerabilities and gathering high resolution imagery in support of that process."

More information will become available as they continue to review their processes.

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