British Columbia

Increased snowpack raises spring flooding fears in isolated B.C. community

The Central Coast Regional District is readying itself after a 36 per cent increase in its snowpack this winter.

Bella Coola Valley at risk after 36% increase in area snowpack

An emergency program co-ordinator for the area says it is possible Bella Coola could lose road and bridge access due to significant flooding this spring. (

Jessica Miller is worried about spring.

Miller, an emergency program co-ordinator for the Central Coast Regional District, knows that when the mercury starts to rise it could mean flood waters in the region will likely rise too, posing a significant threat to people and properties in the Bella Coola Valley.

There are about 2,000 people in the isolated community at the mouth of the Bella Coola River and every spring the melting winter snowpack has residents on edge about possible flooding.

This year, according to Miller, the snowpack is 36 per cent above normal.

"In an isolated, small community we have to take care of each other," said Miller Friday on CBC's Daybreak North. 

She said volunteers are meeting with community elders to help them with emergency planning, including building emergency kits for them, creating contact lists and making sure they have all their critical documents ready to go.

Miller said severe flooding could mean the sole highway "is submerged in several places" and debris carried by flood waters could jeopardize bridges.

She said preparation efforts right now include mapping hazards along the river, working on an alerting tool so the community can be warned about danger ahead of time, and stocking up on sandbags.

The significant snowpack does not mean for sure the valley will be swamped, Miller said. Other factors include the severity and timing of rainfall patterns as temperatures warm up.

Also, hot weather in March or April could help melt off some of the snowpack at lower elevations before the warmer weather in later spring melts off the rest of the snow.

With files from Daybreak North


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