From drought to drenched: Comox Valley, Campbell River lakes surge after late December rain

From drought to drenched: Comox Valley, Campbell River lakes surge after late December rain

The lengthy drought seen in the Comox Valley and Campbell River has done a 180 in recent weeks thanks to a sudden surge of late December rain.

By mid-December, water levels in the Comox Lake reservoir and Campbell Lake/Buttle Lake reservoir were several metres lower than they should have been after months of drought.

But on Dec. 24, the switch flipped, and down came the rain.

“We had well over a couple hundred millimetres of rain fall on those watersheds so in the case of the Puntledge River system the Comox Lake reservoir rose about three metres,” said BC Hydro spokesperson Stephen Watson. “We went from drought to flood-risk management in a very short period of time.”

The water in Upper Campbell Lake behind Strathcona Dam has also risen significantly to the bottom of the spillway gate and it’s expected to keep rising.

As a result, BC Hydro will start releasing more water down the Campbell River, finally, to levels where it should be by Monday night.

Overall, Watson says there is still a deficit of precipitation of up to 600 millimetres in the Island watersheds where BC Hydro operates.

This deficit is reflected closer to sea level as well, with Victoria Airport receiving 92 per cent of normal total precipitation for 2022, Comox only receiving 88 per cent, and Campbell River 75 per cent.

The question now is what’s next for Vancouver Island?

“We’re expecting the milder trend to continue at least for the next couple of weeks,” Environment Canada Meteorologist Bobby Sekhon told CHEK News.

“We’re generally looking at near or above average temperatures and we’re going to be getting into a kind of stormy pattern as well in the Pacific so we can expect more showers around Vancouver Island.”

That could mean more snow at higher elevations, which is good news for a lower-than-average snowpack.

“The snowpack is below normal,” added Watson. “It’s around 60 per cent of normal but it does not peak until April so there’s lots of time for that recovery.”

Dean StoltzDean Stoltz

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