RDKB prepares for 2020 freshet – asks residents to do the same
The BC River Forecast Centre has released the latest Snow Survey and Water Supply Bulletin, showing higher than normal levels for both the Boundary and West Kootenay snowpacks. The Boundary snowpack is at 134 per cent of normal, which is a six per cent increase since the last bulletin issued on February 1, 2020. The West Kootenay snowpack is at 121 per cent of normal, a decrease of five per cent since last reported.
Regional snowpacks are only just starting to melt at lower elevations and snow could continue to accumulate at higher elevations even after spring officially arrives March 19.
The snow basin index is only one indication of flood risk. Shorter-term temperature variations and precipitation events can dramatically affect how the snow melts and runs off each spring.
“Though the snowpack is high right now in the Boundary, there are two and half months before our usual freshet is at its peak. If we see typical spring weather with warmer days and cooler nights continue, that snowpack has plenty of time to melt at a normal, steady rate. However, long-range forecasting is unpredictable so the only sound approach is to prepare,” said Mark Stephens, Interim Manager of Emergency Programs at the RDKB.
To prepare for whatever freshet scenario occurs, the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary has activated its Emergency Operations Centre to a Level 1. Two staff are monitoring the snowpack and freshet and planning for a possible flood event.
The RDKB has completed a comprehensive flood response plan and RDKB staff are working with partner agencies to hold readiness meetings and to review plans.
“We will keep working with our partners at Emergency Management BC and the BC River Forecast Centre to make sure we have the most up to date information to inform our decisions,” said Stephens.
The RDKB emergency program monitors snowpack, river levels and weather forecasts daily and meets regularly with provincial staff at the BC River Forecast Centre and at Emergency Management BC. Emergency officials also play a key role in educating residents to prepare themselves for any emergencies that could occur in the region. Before the 2020 freshet, the Emergency Program encourages residents to do four things:
1. Ensure that drains, culverts and other means of moving water away from residences remain clear as the snow continues to melt.
2. Sign up to receive emergency evacuation alerts on a landline, mobile device or by email at emergency.rdkb.com or contact the RDKB directly at 1-800-355-7352 to get help signing up.
3. Prepare by developing a household emergency plan, putting together a grab-and-go bag and connecting with neighbours. Emergencies teach us that knowing neighbours and developing a neighbourhood emergency plan can dramatically change how we fare in an emergency and how we recover afterwards.
4. For those with river and lake front property that have experienced flooding in the past this is a good time to start planning flood protection for your household.