Trail Creek during 2019 freshet. (Trail Times file photo)

West Kootenay residents advised to prepare for freshet

West Kootenay snowpack is at 121% of normal, Boundary snowpack is at 134% of normal

To prepare for whatever freshet scenario occurs in the coming months, the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB) has activated its Emergency Operations Centre to a Level 1.

That means two staff are monitoring the snowpack and freshet and planning for a possible flood event.

“Though the snowpack is high right now in the Boundary, there are two and half months before our usual freshet is at its peak,” advised Mark Stephens, interim manager of RDKB emergency programs.

“If we see typical spring weather with warmer days and cooler nights continue, that snowpack has plenty of time to melt at a normal, steady rate. However, long-range forecasting is unpredictable so the only sound approach is to prepare.”

Read historical feature of Trail flooding here: Trail Stricken By Flood, 50 years later

The RDKB has completed a comprehensive flood response plan and RDKB staff are working with partner agencies to hold readiness meetings and to review plans.

“We will keep working with our partners at Emergency Management BC and the BC River Forecast Centre to make sure we have the most up to date information to inform our decisions,” said Stephens.

The RDKB emergency program monitors snowpack, river levels and weather forecasts daily and meets regularly with provincial staff at the BC River Forecast Centre and at Emergency Management BC.

Emergency officials play a key role in educating residents to prepare themselves for any emergencies that could occur in the region.

Before the 2020 freshet, the Emergency Program encourages residents to do four things:

1. Ensure that drains, culverts and other means of moving water away from residences remain clear as the snow continues to melt.

2. Sign up to receive emergency evacuation alerts on a landline, mobile device or by email at or contact the RDKB directly at 1-800-355-7352 to get help signing up.

3. Prepare by developing a household emergency plan, putting together a grab-and-go bag and connecting with neighbours. Emergencies teach us that knowing neighbours and developing a neighbourhood emergency plan can dramatically change how we fare in an emergency and how we recover afterwards.

4. For those with river and lake front property that have experienced flooding in the past this is a good time to start planning flood protection for your household.

Regional snowpacks are only just starting to melt at lower elevations and snow could continue to accumulate at higher elevations even after spring officially arrives March 19.

The snow basin index is only one indication of flood risk.

Shorter-term temperature variations and precipitation events can dramatically affect how the snow melts and runs off each spring.

The RDKB advisory comes on the heels of the BC River Forecast Centre recent release of the latest Snow Survey and Water Supply Bulletin. Both show higher than normal levels for the West Kootenay and the Boundary snowpacks.

The West Kootenay snowpack is at 121 per cent of normal, a decrease of five per cent since last reported.

The Boundary snowpack is at 134 per cent of normal, which is a six per cent increase since the last bulletin issued on Feb. 1.

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