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Historic flooding hits British Columbia after record snowpack starts melting, Canada

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Record snowpack, temperatures as high as 30 °C (86 °F) and 2 days of intense rain have caused historic floods in parts of British Columbia over the past couple of days. In Grand Forks, the flood is worst since 1948. Things are not over yet, officials said, warning that second wave of floods is expected mid-week.

Major flooding hit British Columbia on May 10, 2018, forcing about 4 000 people to evacuate their homes.

"The spring food season is upon us," BC Premier John Horgan said. "Heavy rainfall, warm weather and rapid snowmelt have triggered flood warnings and evacuations in the Interior. More than 4 000 British Columbians have been forced from their homes, while thousands more anxiously wait to see what rising flood waters will mean for their homes and their livelihoods."

Evacuation orders affecting over 2 700 people were issued in parts of Kootenay Boundary, from Christina Lake through the West Boundary, including areas of Grand Forks where worst flooding since 1948. 

Three of the region's rivers, the Granby, Kettle and West Kettle, all broke 1948 water level records by about 60 cm (23.6 inches), Chris Marsh, emergency operations center director for the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary said.

About 3 000 residents remain under an evacuation order due to the ongoing threat of a second flood, with high forecasted temperatures expected to melt snow at higher elevations. Rivers are expected to rise by mid-week, reaching levels close to those experienced Thursday, the district said, adding that snowpack levels were more than double the average this season.

Premier Horgan told reporters that this may be a 'one-in-one-hundred-years' flooding season and the provincial government will review its options for further support Monday morning, May 14.

"I've never seen anything like it," Solicitor General Mike Farnworth said after he visited devastated communities in Grand Forks on Sunday, describing 80- and 90-year-old homes that have been destroyed by the disaster and water reaching the windows of other houses.

While this past weekend weather was drier, officials said it's not over yet, warning that round two of the flood surge is likely on its way with warm weather expected to melt even more snow.

Environment Canada says Grand Forks can expect temperatures around 28 °C (82.4 °F) all week with rain hitting on Wednesday, May 16.

Other areas of Canada have been also been affected by snowmelt floods over the last few weeks, in particular in parts of New Brunswick and Alberta.

The flood waters have also reached Washington state, USA, where the governor has declared a state of emergency for nearly all of Central and Eastern Washington. 20 counties are facing heavy flooding as rapidly melting snow makes its way into rivers and streams

Flood waters have damaged water and sewage treatment facilities, inundated local roads and state highways and impacted utilities, the Governor said in a statement. Rural communities like Omak and Tonasket are seeing major flooding from the Okanogan River. In Pend Oreille County, residents of Usk, Cusick and Newport have been filling sandbags in anticipation of high waters on the Pend Oreille River.

Featured image credit: Regional District of Kootenay Boundary

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