Record snow pack carries Lakes District flood risk

Record snow levels in the region have the potential to cause widespread flooding

A record snow pack could result in flooding in the local area.

A record snow pack could result in flooding in the local area.

Record snow levels that have blanketed the region this winter have the potential to cause widespread flooding, if weather conditions are less than ideal.

Dave Campbell, head of the River Forecast Centre for the Ministry of Environment said to Lakes District News that a week of unusually hot weather or persistent rain could result in flooding in the local area.

Campbell said the flooding in the Burns Lake and Houston area in May 2011 was caused by heavy rainfall and a delayed melt due to unseasonably cold weather.

“Last year the snow pack wasn’t even that high, but because of the delay in melting we had flooding.” During 2011, the snow pack in the Bulkley Nechako region, the Skeena Nass region and the Upper Fraser Region was at 110 per cent of normal levels.

He said there is a higher than usual snow pack in the Burns Lake area and to the Southeast, as well as the Bulkley Nechako region and the Upper Fraser region. “In all of these areas there is a seasonal flood risk,” he said.

According to Campbell, as of March 1, 2012, the snow pack in these areas is at 140 per cent of normal levels. “Data from individual snow survey sites shows the snow pack at record levels. We only see this [snow pack so high] once every 20 or so years,” Campbell said.

While Campbell said he doesn’t anticipate any dramatic changes in weather over the coming months, he said unseasonably cold weather predicted for the next couple of months could also result in flooding.

Unseasonably cold weather will keep the snow pack in place long after it would have gradually melted. Then when hot weather sets in, the melt will occur quicker, resulting in flooding.

“Predicting flooding is difficult to do because it really depends on the weather,” he said.

From the middle of April through to May is the melting period. “We don’t want any dramatic weather events to occur and by this I mean extended periods of hot temperatures or heavy rainfall, like we had last year that caused flooding.”