Flood? Drought? Maybe

Still too early to predict summer water level conditions.

The dry start to spring this year is expected to persist. With a lower than average winter snowpack, the B.C. River Forecast Centre tells us to expect below-normal seasonal run-off in the Nechako watershed.

According to the May 1, B.C. River Forecast Centre (BCRFC), the Nechako snow basin is at 82 per cent of normal, while the Upper Fraser snow basin is at 129 per cent of normal. The above average snow pack in the Upper Fraser is due to an unseasonably cold April which delayed the normal spring melt, and not because of an unusually deep snow pack.

This translates into a seasonally high flood risk in the Upper Fraser basin, which includes most communities in the central and eastern portions of the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako, including Burns Lake, Fort St. James, and Vanderhoof.

The flood risk is contingent on temperature and levels of precipitation during the spring melt. Generally, according the BCRFC, peak flows arrive in late May. Although most rivers are below flood danger, things may change quickly if extremely warm weather continues, especially if it is combined with heavy rainfalls.

David Campbell, Section Head of BCRFC, cautioned that the lower than normal Nechako snowshed could be setting up the region for draught conditions. The Nechako feeds into the Fraser River near Prince George after flowing northeastward from the Nechako Plateau south of Burns Lake, though Fort Fraser and Vanderhoof.

“The unregulated parts of the watershed are going to be flowing lower than normal, particularly as we get later into the summer,” Campbell said. “Whether or not we get into draught conditions depends on the weather.”

High river flow levels were anticipated for last weekend with the continuing warm weather. Although rivers in the region are visibly running strong, no flood watch warnings or advisories have been issued for the RDBN as of May 13, 2013. Flood Watches have been issued for several south interior river systems.

With Environment Canada is calling for drier and warmer than normal conditions through April and June for most of the province, the BCRFC will continue to provide river flow updates, which Lakes District News will continue to follow.