Flood warnings and river advisories cover nearly half of B.C. as of Saturday morning, including Richmond.
A high streamflow advisory – issued by the BC River Forecast Centre – is in effect for the Fraser River from Hope to the ocean, warning that river levels are “rising or expected to rise rapidly.”
As the lowest level of alert, no major flooding is expected, although low-lying areas could see minor flooding.
Flood warnings, including alerts of the highest level, have been issued for the Upper and Middle Fraser and tributary rivers, the Peace region, and the Chilcotin River and its tributaries, due to snowmelt and persistent wet weather over the past month, according to the BC River Forecast Centre’s Dave Campbell.
“Rivers are extremely high, unusually high for this time of year,” Campbell said during a press conference Tuesday.
“They’re certainly big, dynamic situations…we do expect a lot of riverbanks to be extremely unstable, and there’s lots of debris floating in the river which is a hazard to the waterways.”
According to Environment Canada, the floodplain of the lower Fraser Valley is dependent on dikes for protection when the water elevation at Mission exceeds 5.5 metres. As waters rise, river velocity increases, which can scour and weaken dikes.
The BC River Forecast Centre currently predicts that peak river levels at the Mission gauge will be at or above 5.5 metres over the next few days before beginning to decrease. The river is predicted to peak at 1.47 metres at the Steveston gauge Saturday, and 1.54 metres Sunday.
In an email to the Richmond News, city spokesperson Clay Adams said that flooding in Richmond isn’t expected at this time, and the city's dikes are built to withstand a 500-year return period freshet event.
“We are monitoring the situation closely, and current models suggest that river levels will remain approximately 1.5 metres below Richmond’s dike elevations,” said Adams.
However, city staff are taking “proactive measures” to prepare in case water levels rise over the coming days.
These measures include putting flood panels in place at Britannia, daily dike patrols to look for erosion issues, and ensuring extra staff and emergency equipment is available – for example, the Aqua Dam temporary dike and sandbags, which can be rapidly deployed if needed.
Meanwhile, residents – and their pets – are asked to keep away from the edge of the river, as the fast-moving waters and river levels are a safety risk.