The District of Hope is expecting a normal to high water situation along the Fraser and say they are preparing for potential flooding.
With warm temperatures increasing snowmelt rates, communities in the Chilcotin and Cariboo regions face flood warnings. Some communities have been placed under local states of emergency and residents, for example in Cache Creek, have been ordered to evacuate. In Hope, with water levels just over 5,000 cubic metres per second on Tuesday, the district is still in monitoring mode.
When the predictions start to reach 8,000 cubic metres per second, that’s when the thinking shifts to what needs to be done next DeSorcy said. How quickly these volumes will come is all weather dependent, DeSorcy added, “whether or not we have a stretch of heat or a stretch of heavy rain, that could change everything.”
With snowpacks at historic highs – 20 to 50 per cent above average across the Fraser River basin – hydrologists say there is potential for flooding in lower parts of the Fraser Valley. However, this depends on a series of climate and weather factors.
“But we are expecting a normal to high rise this year in the in the in the Fraser River, we would expect water onto Wardle Street, those areas that are usually affected by high water on the Fraser, we expect those to be the same this year,” DeSorcy said. That year, DeSorcy said, they saw 12,000 cubic metres per second at the gauge near Hope. Exactly how high the river will rise will only be known once the freshet begins in earnest.
“We know the properties that will likely face evacuation alerts,” he said. “Our messaging to the people is to be prepared that… we could be issuing evacuation alerts for people, to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.”
If COVID-19 restrictions are still in place at that time, reception centres would need to be opened that will allow for physical distancing. While a specific location has not been identified, DeSorcy said there are locations at the district’s disposal to use should this be needed.
The district used a gabion basket damming system in 2018 along Wardle and 7 Avenue where the Fraser meets the Coquihalla. Hope’s operations manager would request these from the province if needed. DeSorcy said he doesn’t expect any issues receiving this from the province if needed even during the COVID-19 pandemic, yet supplying these needs for communities is ultimately up to the province.
The district does have sandbags, however these are intended to protect district infrastructure such as pumping stations.
DeSorcy said the emergency operations centre, which is already up and running, is set up for physical distancing for a limited number of people. They are also preparing for remote access to the centre if needed.
“This is something we’re used to, but we will take all steps necessary to keep the public informed,” DeSorcy said.