Snow packs in the mountains of the Shuswap are well above normal for this time of year and have reached levels that might herald spring flooding.
According to a Feb. 1 report published by the BC River Forecast Centre, snow pack in the South Thompson basin which includes the Shuswap is at 130 per cent of normal levels. The Okanagan and Boundary basins to the south also have deep snow packs; they sit at 129 and 128 per cent respectively.
The snow level recorded at an automated monitoring station located 1,500 metres above sea level north of Seymour Arm at the northern tip of Shuswap Lake shows the snow pack’s rapid rise through the months of January and February. The snow at the monitoring station outpaced last winter’s accumulation in mid January. Shortly before Feb. 1, the snow accumulation total, which is recorded daily, exceeded the maximum recorded in late January and early February for any year between 2004 and 2019.
The other automatic monitoring station in the area, which is located near Enderby, has recorded snow accumulation vastly exceeding last year’s for the same dates. The satellite-linked camera at the station is still transmitting but its lens appears to be buried in snow.
The River Forecast Centre notes that the likelihood of spring flooding rises with high snow packs, particularly when they reach 120 per cent of normal values. Deep snow in the mountains does not make spring flooding inevitable but the levels observed in the South Thompson, Okanagan and Boundary basins as well as other parts of the province suggest an emerging risk of flooding.
According to the forecast centre, by February, about two thirds of the snow pack that will accumulate over the winter has generally already fallen.