March 1st, 2024

Record warmth, wet storms and snowmelt set off recipe for flooding in B.C.

By The Canadian Press on January 30, 2024.

Backcountry skiers are make their way along a mountain ridge near McGillivray Pass Lodge located in the southern Chilcotin Mountains of British Columbia, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012. The flood and avalanche risks remain elevated throughout British Columbia's South Coast, where a series of atmospheric rivers continues to bring heavy rains along with unseasonably warm temperatures to the region. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

The unseasonable warmth brought by a stream of drenching Pacific storms has shattered high-temperature records and melted snowpack in British Columbia, triggering flooding and an evacuation order.

The Village of Pemberton has issued an order to get out for six rural properties along Airport Road due to the risk of flooding.

Evacuation alerts are also in place for about 20 other properties in the Pemberton Valley as several waterways swell with melting snow.

The village says properties at risk include those along the Lillooet, Ryan, Miller, Green and Birkenhead rivers, Pemberton Creek and Lillooet Lake.

Abbotsford, B.C., was the hot spot in the country on Monday with a temperature of 18.2 C, while many other heat records were broken, including some that have stood for almost a century.

Environment Canada says the mild air mass known as an atmospheric river pushed the temperature at Vancouver’s airport to 14.3 C on Monday, breaking the previous record of 13.3 C set in 1940.

Records were also broken at multiple weather stations in Greater Victoria, where temperatures reached 15.3 C, surpassing a 1931 mark by two degrees.

Flood is a risk along most of B.C.’s south, central and northern coasts, while Avalanche Canada says heavy rains and warmth have weakened the snowpack, bringing greater risks of snow slides.

B.C.’s River Forecast Centre has expanded a flood warning to include the Lillooet River, saying flows at a gauge near Pemberton, B.C., were at levels seen once in five to 10 years.

A flood warning remains in effect for the Squamish River, where an updated bulletin says flows had exceeded once-in-five-year levels at a gauge near Brackendale, north of the Squamish town centre.

The centre has posted flood watches and high streamflow advisories have been posted for Vancouver Island and the central and northern coasts.

It says a series of “potent” storms had delivered between 80 and 300 millimetres of rain throughout the region since Friday, with the next round expected to start Tuesday night and stretch into Wednesday.

The risk of flooding is expected to persist into Thursday as the final atmospheric river brings further rain and snowmelt, it says.

The latest Avalanche Canada forecast shows the danger rating remains “high” throughout the south Chilcotin and Pacific mountain ranges, including alpine areas around Squamish, Whistler, Pemberton and Garibaldi Provincial Park.

The avalanche risk is also ranked as high in northwestern B.C., including mountains surrounding the communities of Prince Rupert, Terrace and Kitimat.

A bulletin from the forecaster said heavy rains have saturated and weakened the upper snowpack, and conditions in the alpine weren’t expected to improve Tuesday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 30, 2024.

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version incorrectly said Abbotsford is part of Metro Vancouver.

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