East Kootenay snow pack at 46 per cent of normal

Difficulty of fire season will depend more on how much spring rain falls than snow pack

The BC River Forecast Centre has released the latest snow pillow data and record lows have been recorded in many areas of the province, including the East Kootenay.

As of May 1, the East Kootenay snow basin index for high elevation (1100 to 2000 m) was 46 per cent of normal. The West Kootenay is at 57 per cent, and Boundary 58 per cent. Extremely low indices have been recorded at Skagit, 14 per cent; Vancouver Island, 14 per cent; and the Lower Fraser, 24 per cent.

Field observations around the province indicate that snow packs at valley bottom to mid-elevation (e.g. 800 to 1100m) have mostly melted and recent accumulations at these elevations in the north have also melted.

However, according to the Southeast Fire Centre, it’s not really the snow pack that drives what a potential fire season may be like, but the amount of spring rain that falls.

“If we get a rainy June, it has a big effect,” said Jordan Turner, Information Officer for the Southeast Fire Centre. “If hot, dry conditions persist, there is a chance of a busy fire season. But there are a few factors that go into that.”

The River Forecast Centre is predicting very low flows in streams this summer.

“With extremely low snow packs in the Lower Fraser, South Coast, Similkameen, East Kootenay, Skagit and Vancouver Island, runoff from snow melt will be limited. Seasonal low flows are expected to occur earlier than normal this year, very low flows can be expected in the summer unless significant rainfall occurs through the spring and summer. Lower than normal snow packs in the West Kootenay, East Kootenay, Boundary, Similkameen, Okanagan, Northwest indicate an increased likelihood of summer low flows in these regions as well.”

The Forecast Centre also predicts that there is a 70 per cent chance El Nino conditions will persist into the summer. Environment Canada is forecasting a very high likelihood of above normal temperatures over the May to July period across British Columbia, particularly for the coastal and southeastern areas of the province.