A grass fire in the BX was sparked at the end of March. (Jennifer Smith/Morning Star)

Fewer floods but busy fire season forecast for Okanagan

Water supply and wildfire outlook examined for 2019

Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce

The good news is there may not be as much flooding this year, but the bad news is there could be wildfires.

An April 12 webinar hosted by the Okanagan Basin Water Board looked at water supply for the region as well as the wildfire outlook for 2019.

See: Unusually dry March leads to dozens of grass fires in B.C.

Currently, the snowpack flood hazard is considered moderate.

“There’s a lot less risk coming into this year,” said David Campbell, a section head with B.C.’s River Forecast Centre.

The provincial government plans to keep outflows from Okanagan Lake low during freshet (snow runoff) so it can get within 100 centimetres of full pool of 342.48 metres. However, discharge from the dam in Penticton could increase depending on spring rainfall.

Officials are also looking to see if there will be sufficient drinking water in the Okanagan.

See: Okanagan water suppliers face drought reality

“Spring is starting dry but the rains of May and June are critical for summer water supply,” said Doug Lundquist, a meteorologist with Environment Canada.

In terms of wildfire, the season could be influenced by average to lower than average snowpack, above normal temperatures for April, May and June and below normal precipitation.

“Earlier freshet means a potentially longer fire season,” said Robert Warner, with the B.C. Wildfire Service.

Above seasonal temperatures are currently expected for the summer.

“We are seeing signs that the fire season is likely to be busier than normal,” said Warner, adding that the severity of wildfires could be impacted by rainfall, wind and drying trends.


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