Flooding highly unlikely this year throughout Skeena watershed

Region's snowpack among lowest in the province

  • May. 23, 2020 12:00 a.m.

Skeena River levels are peaking slightly above normal this year. Jake Wray photo

Northwest area river levels are peaking with the melting snowpack, but any chances of flooding this year are minimal, according to B.C.’s River Forecast Centre.

As of April 1, the benchmark measurement date across B.C., the snowpack in the Skeena region was among the lowest in the province at 95 per cent of normal. It dropped to 83 per cent by May 1, then fell further to just 66 per cent over the hot May 9 weekend.

The sudden melt pushed river levels up throughout the region, but not to the point where hydrologists are concerned.

“There was some pretty hot weather that affected the entire coast of B.C…the snow has been melting pretty rapidly and with that the flows themselves in the Kitimat, the Bulkley and Skeena river are all above normal right now, but they’re not necessarily in any flood stage or of concern at this time. The likelihood of any major flood coming from snowmelt alone is pretty low this year for the whole region.”

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As of May 22 the Skeena River near Usk was flowing with high volumes of 3,023 cubic-metres per second and is forecasted to remain around that rate for the next five days.

While flooding risks are minimal, Boyd said the rivers are still extremely dangerous and urges caution from property owners, as well as the general public as COVID-19 restrictions on recreational outings are relaxed.

“Especially in the Skeena, the levels will remain pretty high and it’s especially important to stay vigilant,” he said. “The flows may not be at flood stage, but the pace is still very dangerous and can erode river banks.”

READ MORE: Rising B.C. rivers may have peaked, others still show flood threat: forecaster

Coupled with these high levels, heavy rains could quickly reverse the flooding outlook, but the seven-day forecasts as of May 22 indicate that’s unlikely to occur.

“If there was, theoretically, a heavy and conductive storm in a small watershed there is for sure a risk, especially if there is still some snow remaining,” Boyd said. “But I just don’t see the Skeena River having any major concerns at this time. It looks like it’s peaking right about now…and that it’s going to be a standard year. It might move up a little in the next week or two but not to any level of concern.”

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