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May heatwave in British Columbia raises concerns over flooding and wildfires

A rare and prolonged May heatwave is expected to hit British Columbia this weekend, raising the risk of flooding and wildfires.

The Boundary Lake wildfire is currently estimated to be 1,900 hectares in size. Source - British Columbia Wildfire Service
The Boundary Lake wildfire is currently estimated to be 1,900 hectares in size. Source - British Columbia Wildfire Service

A rare and prolonged May heatwave is expected to hit British Columbia this weekend, raising the risk of flooding and wildfires.

Many parts of the province will see temperatures in the mid to upper 30s, particularly in the northeast, where the sunny and hot weather will exacerbate an already-unusual wildfire season.

John Innes, a professor in the faculty of forestry at the University of British Columbia, says it looks like a “serious weather event” is occurring, with a ridge of pressure expected to produce prolonged heat with little to no rain in the forecast.

There are currently 46 active wildfires in the province, with 8 of the fires still burning out of control. Meanwhile, smoke from the wildfires raging in Alberta is causing poor air quality and bad visibility in northeastern B.C.

Minister of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness Bowinn Ma told Global News, “At this time, our concern about elevated temperatures throughout British Columbia is its impact on flooding and wildfire conditions.”

And while hot, dry weather will increase the risk of wildfires, the same weather will also increase the risk of floods due to fast melting of the snowpack. B.C.’s snowpack typically melts fairly slowly, particularly in forested areas, which helps keep moisture in the ground until later in the summer.

B.C.’s River Forecast Centre is currently maintaining just one flood warning, for Cache Creek, but much of the rest of B.C.’s Interior is covered by lower-level high streamflow advisories.

Cache Creek Mayor John Ranta says flooding in the town is already the worst he’s seen in 50 years, and he’s expecting even more trouble as the blazing temperatures forecast this weekend hit the snowpack.

The community of Grand Forks, 500 km east of Vancouver, also issued a state of local emergency last week due to flooding, but has started taking down some protections.

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