As some of the interior portion of British Columbia is underwater, local authorities in the Columbia Valley have been preparing for a potential flood in this region. Much of the concern in the East Kootenay region stems from slow snow melt and severe rainfall warnings.
“There was some rainfall warnings and water increase level warnings put out by Environment Canada yesterday (Thursday, May 11th). Our response to that this morning we had a level two emergency operations center set up ” said Travis Abbey, emergency services coordinator for the Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK).
A flood response unit has been set up in the RDEK with engineers monitoring problem areas and conducting daily assessments of the waterways, including local creeks such as the one in Fairmont. With less than half of the predicted rainfall on Friday, a flood warning was lifted.
“We had a small debris flow in Fairmont creek this morning that was the one, one of our assessors from the flood response unit had a look at certainly fairly minor debris flows but they just wanted to follow up on it and have a look at the extent of it,” said Abbey.
He went on to explain that in the major water channels there’s still a lot of capacity in them so they’re not “super worried about those yet.”
“We’re still waiting for the major melt to come out of the mountains yet, with the cooler temperatures we haven’t seen all that yet,” said Abbey.
Preparing for a potential flood has meant the regional district, the province, and local municipalities are working together to monitor the situation.
“It’s a real coordinated effort. Our emergency program is responsible for flood response in the whole region, but the local authorities– so each of the municipalities and First Nations– they also have their response capabilities in place. But the intent with the emergency program is we help support any of that site level activity,” said Abbey.
The regional district has also been working with BC Wildfire Service to prepare sandbags in case they need to quickly deploy them. The RDEK has also created a few sandbagging locations around the regional district so those in low-lying areas or who’ve had flooding in the past can act proactively. Though there is no immediate flood warning for the Columbia Valley, it is something local authorities and RDEK staff are preparing for.
“The monitoring is continual at this point. It’s a combo of provincial resources with the water stewardship people, the river forecast center, our flood response people that are out doing assessments on the waterways that are in the regional district,” said Abbey.
Abbey suggested the public visit https://www.getprepared.gc.ca to review some tips on preparing for a flood. With the weather forecast suggesting cooler temperatures and a gradual build up of warm temperatures throughout next week, Abbey was hopeful that would help the snow pack melt slower.
“It’s front and center for everyone right now. They realize there’s a lot of snow up in the hills still, it’s just about how the snow comes out,” said Abbey.
If any members of the public notice concerning water levels or flooding, they are asked to report it by calling the Emergency Management British Columbia toll free number 1-800-663-3456.