How high will the lake go?

Okanagan Lake is expected to reach full pool Friday, May 18th and it’ll keep on filling.  “Plan for flood protection measures on Okanagan Lake up to an elevation of 343 metres above sea level.  That’s approximately a half a metre higher than our full pool,” explained Public Safety and Protection Officer, Shaun Reimer.  He’s the person that controls the outflow of the Penticton Dam. 

Reimer said it’s the product of extreme heat the past few weeks and a deep snow pack, “The water is coming into Okanagan Lake even faster than it did last year.  Even now though, we are 32 centimetres below where we were for the same date last year but I do expect that by tomorrow we will reach our full pool annual target.  I’m not necessarily saying we are going to meet that 343m elevation but I think it’s very prudent that people who were flooded/ local  governments plan for that in terms of where they want to put their flood protection measures.”

Reimer stressed that it’s not just heat.  If Mother Nature decided to rain for a prolonged period it could have disastrous flood implications. 

Dave Campbell is the Head of the BC River Forecast Centre, and updated some of the snowpack numbers and what they mean to BC waterways, “In most areas we’ve dropped to below normal snowpacks and the areas where it still remains above normal are the areas where we did see extreme snowpacks earlier this year, The Okanagan, South Interior, Boundary…Kootenays.”

Campbell said, “We’re seeing little snow at lower elevations, probably about half of the snow has melted in middle elevations and about 10 to 30 percent in the upper elevations.  In the smaller river systems we’re probably about another week or so of elevated risk (of flooding) from the snow melt side of things.  On the larger rivers like the Fraser it’s probably 1 to 2 weeks.  In the larger lake systems we don’t expect those to come online, in terms of increased flood risks, until  later in May or early June.”

Officials are urging caution this long weekend due to the high water flows and the resulting instability of banks.