Flood alert issued for parts of British Columbia already facing wildfires

The BC River Forecast Center has issued flood watches for several parts of British Columbia, including the northeast Peace region, which is already struggling with wildfires out of control.

A flood watch was issued Sunday for rivers and tributaries around Fort St. John, Taylor, Chetwynd, Moberly Lake, Pine Pass, Hudson’s Hope and Dawson Creek.

The River Forecast Center says unusually warm weather in recent weeks has brought heavy snowfall, meaning the region is vulnerable to major flooding as water levels rise.

He compares current conditions to those of 2011 and 2016, when floods forced people from their homes, shut down entire communities and destroyed roads that took months to fully repair.

Environment Canada says heavy rain is expected Monday through Tuesday, with 50-75mm expected in the southern Fort Nelson area through the North Peace region, and up to 100mm expected in the South Peace region, including Tumbler Ridge.

The agency warns of flash flooding, pooling and possible debris flow.

A white sedan teeters at the edge of a flooded street in Dawson Creek, British Columbia, in 2016. The BC River Forecast Center issued a flood warning for the city, saying weather and water conditions are similar to those which led to catastrophic flooding in the northeast. BC seven years ago. (Brett Hyde/CBC)

In addition to the Peace region, the BC River Forecast Center has issued flood watches for the Boundary, Kootenays and Columbia regions in the southeast, the Shuswap, Thompson, Bonaparte and Okanagan regions in the southern interior and for the upper and middle Fraser River. around Prince George and Quesnel.

Several thunderstorm watches are in effect with heavy rain forecast until Tuesday by Environment Canada.

An aerial view of a highway destroyed by flooding.
Damage from the 2016 floods took months to repair, with entire communities cut off as roads were destroyed and washed away. (British Columbia Ministry of Transportation)

Dangers for the public

Officials say it’s important to avoid rivers and streams that have flood watches and warnings.

Swimming, fishing, boating, and hiking near these rivers and streams are also discouraged.

On Friday night, a man drowned trying to rescue a dog that had been swept away by high, fast-moving water in West Vancouver’s Cypress Falls Park, which also triggered a warning for pet owners.

“If you’re near bodies of water, keep your dog on a leash,” said Paul Markey, who led North Shore Rescue’s response to the call. “And if the dog comes in, absolutely don’t follow it and try not to go near the water.”

Storms could help – or hinder – the fight against wildfires

The warning comes as the region is already dealing with several out of control wildfires that continue to force hundreds of people from their homes.

As of Sunday evening, more than 90 wildfires were burning across the province, the majority of them in the Peace River area, including three wildfires that threaten the property.

Forrest Tower, a fire information officer for the province, said there was hope the forecast rain could help bring some of these fires under control – such as Red Creek and Cameron River.

However, firefighters are also monitoring for possible lightning strikes, which could start new fires, as the rain arrives.

“The timeline, at this point, is just when we start getting this precipitation,” he said.

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