While warmer weather may be welcome for many across the country, the recent surge in temperatures is one of the main causes of flooding in communities throughout Canada.
Starting this past weekend, communities in British Columbia’s interior were forced to declare a state of emergency and recommend residents evacuate after a rapid melt caused flooding of lakes and rivers. As of Monday, 148 residents had been evacuated from Tulameen, near Princeton, and the Okanagan, Similkameen, and Cariboo had alerts in place.
The combination of forest fire damage, an above-average snowpack, and high temperatures is being blamed for creating disastrous flood conditions in the region.
While spring flooding is not unexpected in many of these areas, the timing and intensity of the floods is unusual.
“Normally what we expect to see is the flooding, or the chance of flooding, later in the spring…we are just in the end of April and we’ve already had catastrophic overflow of Cache Creek,” Cache Creek’s mayor, John Ranta, told Global News.
According to the Weather Network, B.C. had an unusual amount of snow this winter, which has led to a high snowpack. Additionally, certain areas are also suffering from the long term effects of forest fires.
“The Nazko watershed was significantly impacted by the Plateau Fire last year, which altered the landscape,” Emilt Epp, a representative for the Cariboo Regional District, told the CBC.
“It’s now much easier for the snowmelt to move straight into streams and rivers.”
The Bonaparte River, which borders the Caribou Plateau, is now lined with sandbags trying to hold back the flow of water. According to Global News, however, locals are saying they’re still seeing streams where there never were any before.
“This year it’s a little larger concern than ever because of the Elephant Hill fire that happened last year. There’s really nothing holding back the snow pack,” Keith Zabotel of the Bonaparte Indian Band told Global.
Adding to the already bad conditions is the potential for additional rainfall, which officials say is going to be a problem.
While flood warnings remain in effect across the region, some evacuation orders are being relaxed, including those in Tulameen. The state of emergency is still in place.
B.C. isn’t the only province experiencing flooding right now. Alberta, Quebec, and New Brunswick have had similar issues with rapid melts.
In New Brunswick, a sudden spike in temperature has caused a rapid snow melt. This, combined with a lot of rain in the region, has led to intense flooding.
“We really never had a spring,” said Mike O’Brien, Fredericton’s mayor. “We went from winter to summer in 48 hours.”
Major centres like Saint John and Fredericton have experienced severe flooding, as have many other communities. According to the CBC, the Red Cross has already helped over 150 people evacuate from their homes.
A voluntary evacuation notice is in place in certain areas of Saint John, affecting a population of over 1,900.
More rain is predicted in the forecast. According to Geoffrey Downey, a spokesperson for the province’s Emergency Measures Organization, the situation is likely to get worse before it gets better.
“South of Fredericton we’re calling on the river to keep rising, certainly through Thursday.”
New Brunswick experienced severe flooding in 2008, which caused millions of dollars worth of damage and destroyed thousands of homes.