Crow Creek Road in Topley has been washed out by fast-moving waters, making the area accessible to motorists only by a series of logging roads. (David Gordon Koch photo)

UPDATED: Roads disrupted around Burns Lake as flood warning issued in region

Hot weather to increase snow melt this week

Flooding continued in the Burns Lake area over the past week, including wash-outs and overflows on more than a dozen roads in the Lakes District.

Meanwhile, hot weather is expected to cause increased melting on a snowpack that, in Burns Lake, stood at more than 450 percent of its average by the end of April.

Flood warning for Bulkley

On May 10, the provincial River Forecast Centre upgraded the status of the Bulkley River to a flood warning — including for tributaries around Houston and Smithers.

The Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako (RDBN) issued an evacuation alert for the Ebenezer Flats area of Smithers, asking residents to be prepared on very short notice.

Flood warnings indicate that rivers have either surpassed their banks, or that they’re about to do so.

The River Forecast Centre also upgraded the status of the Nechako and Nautley rivers to a flood watch, including for tributaries and lakes around Burns Lake, Francois Lake, Vanderhoof, and surrounding areas.

A flood watch signals that rivers are rising, and that flooding may occur.

Roads disrupted

Lakes District Maintenance (LDM), the regional highway maintenance firm, reported overflows and washouts on more than a dozen roads in its latest Facebook general update for the Lakes District, which was issued on May 10.

The washed-out roads included Crow Creek Road and Shelford 1 Road. Ootsa Nadina also saw another wash-out at the 43 km mark, while work continued on rebuilding a section previously destroyed by floodwater near the 12 km mark.

At Crow Creek Road in Topley, a section of pipe — apparently a culvert that had been overcome by the high water — jutted from a fast-moving stream that had destroyed the road.

The wash-out made the area inaccessible to motorists except by a series of rocky and winding logging roads, including the Maxan and Thompson forest service roads, with signage installed by LDM marking the way.

The company also reported shoulder erosion on Eakin Settlement, Hutter Road and Highway 35, along with single-lane traffic on Colleymount, East Tchesinkut, Ootsa Nadina, and Highway 16.

LDM’s update, which was posted on the company’s Facebook page, also noted several locations where there was water or “high water” on the road, or an uneven road surface.

“Please stay alert and drive with care,” the company said in the statement.

LDM has been issuing updates about road conditions on Twitter, using the account @LDMLakes, and on its Facebook page, which is called Lakes District Maintenance – Service Area #24.

LDM’s website has also been updated to include the latest road conditions. The website overhaul came after the Lakes District News reported that the last update visible on its news feed was from April 2012.

Boaters: slow down

The RDBN has advised residents to prepare for a higher risk of flooding. And with water levels high on Burns Lake and other bodies of water, the regional district asked boaters to slow down to avoid creating waves that could damage properties lining the shores.

The RDBN has said that residents needing sandbags should contact the regional district during its regular office hours, according to the statement. And residents should call the provincial toll-free environmental emergencies number — 1-800-663-3456 — for any non-medical or non-RCMP emergencies that occur outside of RDBN office hours.

The RDBN also reminded residents to be prepared with an emergency kit, move property to higher ground, monitor local media, and beware of erosion and unstable banks. The regional district also urged residents to use caution around fast-flowing bodies of water, and to make a plan for pets and livestock.

Snowpack at 477 percent of average

In a bulletin issued on May 7, the provincial River Forecast Centre reported that snowpacks had grown larger during the month of April in several regions — including Upper Fraser West, where Burns Lake is located.

Provincial snowpack averages were exceeded across the province, but Upper Fraser West had the highest above-average levels, which stood at 264 percent by May 1.

In Burns Lake, the snow water equivalent was at 124 mm by April 27 — 477 percent of the 1981-2010 average of just 26 mm.

This extraordinary figure reflects not only high levels of snow this past winter, but also a delayed melt, said David Campbell, head of the River Forecast Centre.

At the time of writing, temperatures are set to rise 26 C by May 18. Those rising temperatures mean that increased snow melt is in the cards, according to the River Forecast Centre.

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