Snow Pack at 141%
At the end of last February Okanagan snow pack levels were at 86% of normal. This year at the same time, they're 141% of normal. Scary stuff when you consider the millions in flood damage that was done to the area.
"At this point the risk is very high but so much will be dependant on the weather in April and May," according to BC River Forecast Centre hydrologist Jonathon Boyd. Boyd points out that the Forecast Centre doesn't really consider a risk of flooding unless the snow pack level reaches 90% of normal, and last year's level was below that at this point of the year. In fact Boyd said drought conditions were expected for the Okanagan in 2017.
That was before La Niña arrived, and brought unprecedented amounts of rain in early May. The rain, added to melting snowpack, added to the fact Okanagan Lake was kept at a high level to counteract the anticipated dry spring meant the the lake couldn't be drained quickly enough to stop the flood from happening.
Boyd says another La Niña spring is expected for the Okanagan again this year. "Last year was extreme so the odds of us having that record precipitation again (are) probably pretty low but there is the chance. It's important for eveyone to be aware of that." It's those extremes that Boyd says we want to avoid. Small shifts in temperature and precipitation would allow for a much smoother transition between the seasons. And Boyd says officials are better prepared this year.
"This year, knowing that the snow pack is high, operations of the lake are now already releasing water."