Officials on watch as snow melt accelerates

Weather, as always, will determine what happens along the Skeena River

  • May. 27, 2012 11:00 a.m.

LOCAL OFFICIALS anticipate that work done before and after the floods of 2007 will help now that river levels are rising as warmer weather  accelerates the melting of snowpacks.

In the city, protection work that year included beefing up the material at the sewage lagoon bordering the Skeena River.

And in the regional district, rip rap was added to strengthen the banks of the Skeena along Queensway.

A cooler spring that has slowed the rate of snowmelt has also helped, says city administrator Don Ramsay.

“For the time being, we should be OK,” he said.

“Mind you, we are still above average, in some places 134 per cent, above normal [snowpack] and you can flood even at 100 per cent,” Ramsay added.

Some areas, such as Skeena St., remain vulnerable to high water simply because of their location and the river’s path, Ramsay said.

Kitimat-Stikine regional district administrator Bob Marcellin is taking a cautious approach, saying that while work in prior years has helped, no one can ultimately tell what happens.

“We’re completely dependent upon the weather,” said Marcellin. “You’re prepared as you can be.”

The one thing the regional district does have is training and experience from previous years, he continued.

Local officials have been putting that experience and training to the test in a series of emergency preparation sessions in the last weeks featuring people from municipal and regional governments, the RCMP, the provincial ambulance service, provincial emergency officials and northwest fire departments.

One was sponsored by Pacific Northern Gas and while it was focussed on the utility’s services, bringing people together proved a benefit, said Ramsay from the city.

“When we can coordinate and cooperate generally, that’s when we can get efficiencies if we ever do get involved in something such as flooding,” he said.

As it is, the regional district’s emergency program coordinator is advising people in low-lying areas to  floodproof their structures, including moving valuable items to higher ground.

Wes Patterson, who is the regional district’s Thornhill fire chief, says he’ll be issuing updates as needed.


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