British Columbia

Flood risks remain as B.C. heat wave smashes temperature records

Environment Canada says unseasonably hot temperatures in British Columbia will persist over the coming days, with special weather statements warning of high river streamflows due to melting snow in hard-hit communities in the province's interior.

Several heat records shattered across B.C. on Saturday

A family enjoys the sun at Vancouver's 2nd beach amid an unusual May heat wave in B.C.
Vancouver's Second Beach during the unseasonably hot May weather in B.C. (Justine Boulin/CBC)

Environment Canada says unseasonably hot temperatures in British Columbia will persist over the coming days, with special weather statements warning of high river streamflows due to melting snow in hard-hit communities in the province's interior.

The weather agency's statements covering the region warn of daytime temperatures anywhere from 10 to 15 degrees above seasonal norms, but cooling temperatures overnight will provide people with some relief.

Saturday saw several heat records shattered across B.C., with many communities breaking or tying daily maximum temperature marks.

Agassiz saw temperatures of 31.6 C, topping the record of 31.3 C set in 2018. Fort Nelson set a new record of 28.1 C, breaking the old one of 25.6 C set in 1973.

Temperatures at the Squamish Airport reached 32.4 C, beating the previous record of 29.6 C seen in 2018.

Environment Canada meteorologist Louis Kohanyi said Sunday that the high temperatures are unusual for this time of year, but don't compare to the heat dome event of June 2021.

"It is a different scenario,'' he said. "The heat dome of June 2021, it was really exceptional.''

Along with the wildfires, the province is also grappling with flood risks in certain areas as the snowpack melts.

People on a beach.
On Saturday, heat records were smashed in communities across the province. (Justine Boulin/CBC)

The provincial River Forecast Centre issued high streamflow advisories for the Dean and Bella Coola rivers warning of rapidly rising waters, but major flooding isn't expected.

The centre's high streamflow advisory for the Upper Columbia, West Kootenay, East Kootenay, and Boundary River also includes the Kettle River, Granby River and surrounding tributaries.

"Snowmelt rates have been increasing over the past two days. In mid-elevation terrain, snowpacks are dwindling, however significant upper elevation snow still remains. Rivers have begun rising, and a continued rising trend in river levels is expected throughout the week,'' the advisory says.

"However with dwindling snowpack there is uncertainty whether flows will exceed levels previously experienced earlier in May."

At 12:30 p.m. Sunday, the forecast centre downgraded a flood warning for the Middle Fraser River to a high streamflow advisory, and issued a high streamflow advisory for the Upper Fraser River.

In the centre's three-tiered warning system, a flood watch means river levels are rising and flooding might occur. It is preceded by a high streamflow advisory — the lowest of the three levels issued by the River Forecast Centre — that indicates minor flooding in low-lying areas is possible.

MLA calls for proactive measures

In a flood update Saturday, the Village of Cache Creek says it fixed a water main issue that spurred water restrictions, but kept a boil water advisory in place as sidewalks and roads are still strewn with debris from earlier flooding.

B.C. United MLA for Fraser-Nicola Jackie Tegart, whose riding includes Cache Creek, said Sunday that her constituency "seems to be the epicenter of any kind of climate change disaster that's going to happen.''

Tegart said the village and its residents are now dealing with the challenging aftermath of earlier flooding in addition to damage to the highway snarling traffic as people wait to return to their homes after evacuation.

An industrial scoop attempts to place sandbags around a flooded area, with a strip mall visible in the background.
Cache Creek is a community that is no stranger to natural disasters, having experienced wildfires and flooding before including. In early May, snowmelt led to widespread flooding in the village. (Marcella Bernardo/CBC)

She said her riding is hit with many seasonal challenges, including flooding as the spring snowmelt begins followed by droughts in the summer months, highlighting the need for proper water storage and other mitigation measures.

Other areas in her riding have been devastated in the past, Tegart said, including the fire that razed the town of Lytton in June 2021, and the atmospheric river event that flooded Merritt in November that same year.

As Cache Creek digs out of the most recent flooding and begins repairs on its highways that are essential to provincial commerce, Tegart said climate-related disasters highlight the "need to understand the connection between urban areas and how important the rural infrastructure is to how our province runs.''

"I think we've been living through climate change in Fraser-Nicola and what what people in my riding are saying is we've had enough talk, we need some action,'' Tegart said.

"We need some planning done so that we can look at what kind of experiences people have had over the last five to ten years and how do we as a province start to be proactive.''