B.C.'s snowpacks 'extremely low' as drought persists

Snowpacks 'extremely low'

Snowpacks in B.C. remain well below normal as drought persists despite the recent rainy and cool weather.

Data released Thursday by the BC River Forecast Centre says, as of May 15, the average provincial snowpack was 57% of normal for this time of year. That is a decline from 66% on May 1.

“Low snowpack, early snowmelt and lingering impacts from on-going drought are creating significantly elevated drought hazards for this upcoming spring and summer,” said the BC River Forecast Centre.

The Okanagan basin is 49% of normal, while the Similkameen sits at 46%, Boundary 74%, South Thompson 74%, North Thompson 67% and West Kootenay 66%.

The survey is a snapshot in time for May 15 and would not have counted any of the recent precipitation. The report notes that some snow stations in the mountains saw additional cumulation with the recent storms.

“On average, by May 15 approximately 17% of the seasonal snowpack has melted. So far, 31% of peak snowpack has melted this year, driven by low elevation melt in April and the significant heat event on May 9-12,” said the report.

Last year a heat wave in May saw 43% of the snowpack melted by this time.

“Overall, the provincial snowpack remains extremely low for May 15,” the report continued, noting that this report typically captures the peak of the snow accumulation season.

“This season continues to have increased hazards of drought due to long-term precipitation deficits, low snowpack, early snowmelt, and an increased likelihood of warmer than normal spring and summer weather. Weather will continue to play an important role in summer drought conditions,” the report concluded.

The BC Wildfire Service has been gearing up for a busy fire season in the event that the drought persists. Wildfire season in the Southern Interior typically hinges on if it rains in June—the Okanagan's wettest month historically— or not.

Many cities in the region are also already at elevated stages of water restrictions.

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