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Flood watch issued for Skeena Region amid ‘unseasonable’ heatwave

The B.C. River Forecast Centre’s flood watch urges residents to prepare for rising water levels
Ferry Island on Monday, as the City of Terrace announced that parts of island have been closed off to the public, including the entirety of Fisherman’s Park, as water levels rise amid a record-breaking heatwave affecting the region. (Viktor Elias/Terrace Standard)

The B.C. River Forecast Centre has issued a flood watch for the Skeena Region on May 15, with residents being advised to stay clear of fast-flowing rivers and potentially unstable riverbanks.

The alert comes as the region grapples with a heatwave that is accelerating snowmelt and pushing river levels higher.

The flood watch applies to the Skeena River, Bulkley River, and surrounding tributaries, including areas in Wet’suwet’en and Gitxsan Territories, Telkwa, Smithers, Hazelton, Kispiox and Terrace.

The warning comes a day after Environment Canada issued a heat warning for Terrace and surrounding areas, including Kitimat. The weather agency warned of “unseasonably hot weather” in the region, with temperatures forecast to remain high throughout the week. Daytime highs are expected to be 10 to 15 degrees Celsius above seasonal averages, with overnight lows five to 10 degrees above normal.

READ MORE: Terrace and northwest B.C. brace for early May heatwave, potential flooding

“The hot temperatures are leading to accelerated snowmelt in the region,” the B.C. River Forecast Centre explained. “Streamflow in most areas has begun to rise in response to increased snowmelt runoff. With hot temperatures expected to persist through next week, ongoing rises in river levels are expected.”

The Centre’s modelling indicates the potential for flows in rivers in the region to exceed two-year flow levels by Tuesday or Wednesday, reaching higher levels later in the week.

“This will approach or exceed flood levels in areas on the Bulkley River near Smithers, and on the Skeena River,” the Centre warned.

The public has been advised to avoid recreational activities such as fishing, swimming, boating, or hiking near high streamflow rivers or streams, as rapid increases in river levels can easily trap even strong swimmers, increasing the risk of drowning.

In a proactive move, the City of Terrace has closed select areas and parks due to the rising water levels. “Water levels are approaching trails in select areas on Ferry Island and these areas have been flagged off and closed for everyone’s safety,” the city wrote on its website. “Fisherman’s Park is also now closed and barricades have been set up to block access.”

Viktor Elias joined the Terrace Standard in April 2023.

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