Spring Melt Has Only Just Begun
By Don Hawkins
Saturday, May 12, 2012 03:34 AM
Prince George, B.C. – The River Forecast Centre is keeping a very close watch on weather patterns in northern B.C. with the bulk of the melt of the Upper Fraser and Nechako basin snow melt yet to come.
The Upper Fraser recorded a snowpack 152 % of normal while the Nechako basin was 148% of normal this winter. As a result, above normal spring runoff is expected, and that could be compounded by the weather.
Hydrologist David Campbell at the River Forecast Centre says so far there’s been a bit of a delay in the beginning of the melt season due to cool temperatures. Some of the lower elevation snow pack has melted, he says, “but essentially at the upper elevations the entire snow pack is still sitting there.” He says the Upper Fraser snow pack is a little higher than the last big amount recorded in 2007 while the Nechako is a bit below the 2007 level. He says “we’re characterizing it as being substantial in the amount of snow we have, and certainly we anticipate seeing an increased flood risk with the melt of that snow pack.”
Recent readings of river levels in the Prince George area have the Fraser at 7.237 metres at South Fort George. Flood level is 9.4 metres. The Nechako stands at 3.811 metres at Isle Pierre. Alcan increased its water flow to 175 cubic metres per second back on April 20th. Campbell says that increase has been noticed on the Isle Pierre guage in the past few days, although he’s not sure the total amount has made it through. He says Alcan is trying to get water out as the snow melts, so he wouldn’t be surprised if there are further increases in the amount of water discharged.
Campbell says to put into perspective how early in the melt season we are, last year the Fraser didn’t hit 9.4 metres at South Fort George until July 8th. “We typically hit the peak towards the end of May into early June, depending on the weather. We’ve got a bit of a hot spell coming in for the weekend. It doesn’t last as long in the Prince George area as elsewhere, but we’re going to see those melt rates start to crank up” with the level of the Fraser rising into next week.
Dave Dyer, Manager of Utilities with the City of Prince George, says the last major flood here, which saw the Fraser rise to 10.4 metres at South Fort George, occurred 40 years ago in 1972. He also says the City doesn’t have a flood level measurement for the Nechako River here, but that is being worked on.
Meantime, the Regional District of Fraser/Fort George recommends people living in areas which experience seasonal flooding be prepared for such an occurrence. Manager of External Relations, Rene McCloskey, says it’s important that you have an emergency kit on hand which can sustain you and your family for up to 72 hours. The kit should include food, water, blankets, flashlight, radio, batteries, matches or lighter and even some cash. And she says you should have a kit in your home and one in your vehicle because waters can rise very quickly and impact access to your house. She says depending on the situation you may not have the ability to get in to collect clothing and other necessities.
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