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Flood risk remains low in BC, 'elevated drought hazards' continue

Low snowpack, early snowmelt and lingering impacts of on-going drought are creating conditions for “significantly elevated drought hazards” across BC this summer.

That’s what the latest snowpack numbers from the BC River Forecast Centre (BCRFC) show.

As of June 1, the provincial snowpack was below normal, averaging 57%, the BCRFC says.

However, those snowpack levels aren’t too far off the seasonal average for this time of year.

On average, about 46% of the seasonal snowpack has melted by the beginning of June.

<who> Photo Credit: BCRFC

This spring also didn’t see the warm temperatures seen in May 2023, which caused over 85% of the snowpack to melt resulting in widespread flooding in the Southern Interior.

“Snowmelt-related flood hazard remains low,” the BCRFC snow bulletin says.

“Despite significant heat on May 9-12, no flooding was experienced.”

Any flood risk will be caused by widespread heavy rain events, the bulletin says.

The second half of May saw wetter conditions with seasonal to below seasonal temperatures across BC. Monthly rainfall levels were “variable,” however, Victoria, Quesnel and Williams Lake saw wetter than normal conditions.

According to the bulletin, Williams Lake saw the fourth wettest May in 63 years.

However, drier than normal conditions were recorded in Campbell River, Vernon, Cranbrook, Sandspit, Terrace, Smithers, Chetwynd, Fort St. John, which saw the fourth driest May since 1910, and Fort Nelson.

Although some northern regions, like the Northwest and Stikine, will see normal seasonal flooding risk, drought conditions are expected to continue for the rest of the province.

According to the BC Provincial Drought Map, as of June 6, Northeast BC is under drought level four with the East Peace regional under drought level five, which is the highest drought ranking and means adverse impacts are “almost certain.”

The Bulkley-Lakes, Upper Fraser West and Middle Fraser regions are under drought level three.

The rest of the province is under either drought level one or drought level two, which means adverse impacts are rare or unlikely.

<who> Photo Credit: Province of BC </who> Drought levels in BC as of June 6, which is the last time the drought map was updated.

However, the BCRFC says higher elevation watersheds are still susceptible to sudden streamflow rises if a heat event happens in June, especially if it is followed by heavy rainfall.

“This season continues to have increased hazards of drought due to long-term precipitation deficits, low snowpack, early snowmelt, and an increased likelihood of warmer than normal summer weather,” the bulletin says,

“Weather will continue to play an important role in summer drought conditions.”

The June 1 bulletin is meant to provide an update on the seasonal snowmelt process, but the final bulletin on June 20 will provide an updated seasonal risk forecast.

According to the bulletin, forecasts from Environment and Climate Change Canada continue to indicate a “moderate likelihood” f above normal temperatures from June to August.

The next bulletin will include information up to June 15 and will the final one for the 2024 season,

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