British Columbia

B.C.'s North, Interior brace for flooding

Heavy rainfall on Friday and warmer temperatures through the week have parts of B.C.'s Interior and North preparing for the worst, as river levels and flood risk rise. 

Evacuation alerts, flood watches and high streamflow advisories in effect

Communities across northern and Interior B.C. are preparing for the possibility of flooding. A major flood in November 2021 in Princeton, B.C., pictured here, filled the streets with mounds of mud and pools of water. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Heavy rainfall on Friday and warmer temperatures through the week have parts of B.C.'s Interior and North preparing for the worst, as river levels and flood risk rise. 

Heavy rain is expected to continue through the weekend and temperatures are forecast to stay in the high teens.

Hundreds of properties in B.C. are on evacuation alert, meaning residents should be prepared to leave at a moment's notice. 

David Campbell, head of B.C.'s River Forecast Centre, says extreme weather in 2021 has caused erosion and sediment pileup along river banks, making them more vulnerable to flooding now. 

"It creates another wildcard just for understanding what the impacts might be of another high flow or flood event," he said. 

About 18 homes in the villages of Coalmont and Tulameen, northwest of Princeton in the southern Interior, where flooding all but devastated the town last fall, are under evacuation alert. 

"People who live in those areas are used to flooding," said Erick Thompson, communications co-ordinator for the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen.

"But it can create anxiety. And the way to take away some of that anxiety is by being prepared and knowing what to do, but also monitoring local information sources, including the regional district, to know what's happening and be aware."

Sandbags ready

In northern B.C., Terrace mayor Carol Leclerc said her town has prepared 3,000 sandbags for each of the 33 properties under evacuation alert, and a sandbagging machine is now operational to keep making sandbags if the need arises. 

"Make sure you've got your game plan ready," Leclerc told BC Today guest host Jodie Martinson, advising residents to heed evacuation alerts.

Other barriers are being set up to protect the sewage plant and Leclerc said volunteers are on call for the weekend.

A map of British Columbia, with some areas highlighted orange or yellow depending on whether they are under high streamflow advisory or flood watch. Two regions in northern B.C. are on flood watch, and parts of the rest of the region are under an advisory. Much of southern B.C. is on an advisory, with four regions near the U.S. border on flood watch.
The areas in yellow are under a high streamflow advisory, and the areas in orange are under flood watch as of the afternoon of June 4. (B.C. River Forecast Centre)

Terrace has closed a popular park and boat launch, and a camping and playground area that are also at risk. 

About 200 kilometres east of Terrace by road, the community of Smithers is also bracing for flooding. 

"We're anticipating a significant increase in rainfall, which is a part of the challenge that we'll be faced with over the weekend, perhaps extending towards Monday," deputy mayor Lorne Benson said Friday afternoon. 

The River Forecast Centre has issued a flood watch for the Bulkley River and surrounding tributaries in B.C.'s north. On Saturday afternoon, the centre also issued a flood watch for the Skeena River.

"Skeena River levels are expected to continue rising through the weekend and will rise further in response to additional rainfall," a statement from the centre reads. "The major uncertainty is the exact location of rainfall over the upcoming days, so there is a high degree of uncertainty whether flows will reach flood stage." 

Several rivers and creeks are also under flood watch in the southern Interior. 

A flood watch means that river levels are rising and will approach or could exceed bankfull, and that areas adjacent to the river may also flood.

"The potential for loss of property is always a significant concern, but there is also a need for people to be aware of the risk involved with being close to the river," Benson said, noting that banks can destabilize and floodplains can extend out quickly. 

"It's a good idea for people to stay back and wait for this event to pass."

Campbell says he'll be monitoring conditions for the next two to four weeks, as he sees this as the "prime time" for increased flood risk. 

"The concern for us is obviously a lot of uncertainty."

LISTEN | B.C. Interior, north make preparations ahead of anticipated rainfall

B.C.'s River Forecast Centre has issued high streamflow advisories across much of northern B.C., prompting evacuation alerts in a number of small communities. We'll hear from the Mayor of Terrace and the Deputy Mayor of Smithers about how their communities are preparing. And in our second half, Brian Minter of Minter Country Garden shares his gardening tips and tricks.

With files from Janella Hamilton and B.C. Today

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