Spring flooding in Canada: Are you at risk this year?
With stubborn snow still on the ground in much of the country after one of the coldest winters in recent history, the threat of flooding looms large everywhere from New Brunswick to Alberta, according to Environment Canada.
The weather agency’s senior climatologist David Phillips said they will typically see the risk of severe springtime flooding in just one or two areas of the country, this year he said there are potential flood issues from the Maritimes through Quebec and Ontario and into the Prairies.
With few opportunities for snow to melt this winter, Phillips said a sudden transition to warm weather could increase the flooding risk.
“In every area we’re seeing snow that fell before Halloween is still there on the ground,” he told CTV’s Your Morning on Friday. “Heavy, deep snowpack, we haven’t got rid of it much this winter because we had the second coldest winter in 16 years and record cold in the Prairies and other parts of the country.”
New Brunswick, in particular, is at risk of another year of springtime flooding following record-high water levels and flooding in 2018, which caused millions of dollars in property damage. Phillips said the situation is just as critical as it was last year.
In Quebec, Phillips said southern portions of the province may struggle with flooding this spring. Quebec City has received more than 100 centimetres of snow this winter that still needs to melt, Phillips said.
With a dramatic warm up on the way in Ontario just in time for the first official day of spring, Phillips said northern parts of the province, including Sudbury, could see some flooding this year depending on how quickly temperatures rise.
Phillips said southern Manitoba, particularly Winnipeg and low-lying areas around the Red River, could be threatened with flooding this spring.
Saskatchewan does not appear to be currently at risk for flooding this spring, according to Phillips.
Further west, Phillips said Edmonton and areas to the north could experience flooding this year.
Despite “terrible” flooding in British Columbia the past two springs, Phillips said this year doesn’t look as bad for the province thanks to normal snowfall amounts in alpine areas.
The amount of snow on the ground isn’t the only predictor of flooding, Phillips said. Daily temperatures and rainfall in the spring can also determine the potential for flooding.
“What you need is the convergence of several weather situations that could cause you to get rid of that snow in a rush,” he explained. “You don’t want to go from slush to sweat. You want kind of an easy, slow [transition] into the spring and that would in fact help to diminish the flood risk.”
Phillips said a warmer climate can contribute to an increase in flooding every year because the atmosphere can hold more moisture, which can result in heavier rain.
“My sense is that trend has been there in recent decades and there’s no reason to suggest that it won’t go away,” he said. “I think that is something that we’re going to have to live with in the years to come.”