Residents of Terrace and surrounding areas in northwest British Columbia should prepare for an early May heatwave, with temperatures expected to reach or approach record levels late this weekend and into early next week, according to Environment Canada. The heat could also cause flooding, with snow rushing down the mountainsides into creeks and combining into the Skeena River.
The heatwave, which could break a 1925 record on Monday, is set to start on Sunday.
On Sunday, Environment Canada is predicting a high of 27ºC, just shy of the 29.3ºC record set in 1993. The forecast for Monday calls for 30ºC, likely breaking 1925’s record of 28.3ºC in the city.
These elevated temperatures may lead to increased streamflow, escalating the risk of flooding in the region.
In response, the B.C. River Forecast Centre issued a High Streamflow Advisory for the Skeena Region on May 5, warning of a rapid rise in river levels around Telkwa, Smithers, Hazelton, Kispiox and Terrace.
“Being near these riverbanks, creeks and fast-flowing bodies of water is dangerous,” the centre said. “Stay clear of fast-flowing rivers and potentially unstable riverbanks. Avoid recreational activities such as fishing, swimming, boating or hiking near high streamflow rivers or streams.”
The advisory was issued after relatively cool temperatures in early April gave way to a steady warm-up since April 28. Data from an automated snow weather station in Lu Lake, at 1,308 metres elevation, indicated that average temperatures rose from 0.5ºC between April 21-27 to 8.3ºC from April 28-May 4.
The advisory also noted that rivers have been steadily rising due to snowmelt triggered by the recent warm weather. Lu Lake has lost approximately 35 per cent of its seasonal snow pack, while the Cedar-Kiteen station has melted about 25 per cent. Smaller creeks, including Buck Creek and M3 Creek near Smithers, have reached two-year flow highs.
“The region will continue to remain at risk for several weeks, especially if adverse weather conditions occur,” the advisory cautioned.
In addition to the rapid increase in water levels, the icy temperature of the water is also a concern. The water, which is already moving very quickly, is also extremely cold, creating an added risk for people venturing close to the riverbank, said an Environment Canada spokesperson.
Further, the impending heatwave is expected to increase the risk of wildfires.
The Interior could see temperatures reach the mid- to high-30s, and with little precipitation expected over the next 10 days, northwestern B.C. is at an increased risk of wildfires.
“We take things on a day-to-day forecast,” a B.C. Wildfire Service spokesperson said, noting that while Terrace is not typically a hot spot for wildfires due to its strong coastal influence, weather changes and a lack of precipitation could increase the risk.
The spokesperson also stressed that wildfires in Terrace are more likely to be ignited by lightning than by a few days of warmer weather. So far this spring, the northwest has seen fewer than a dozen wildfires, most of which have been relatively minor in size.
Environment Canada also warns that the clear, dry pattern will escalate UV indexes in the region, urging residents to apply sunscreen and take proper precautions, particularly for vulnerable individuals such as young children and the elderly.
Viktor Elias joined the Terrace Standard in April 2023.