A flood watch covered the Skeena region of northwestern British Columbia Tuesday as unseasonably warm temperatures swell rivers in many areas of the province.
B.C.’s River Forecast Centre posted the warning for the Skeena and Bulkley rivers and their tributaries across Wet’suwet’en and Gitxsan territories, as well as from Telkwa to Terrace.
The hot weather is accelerating snowmelt across most of B.C., the centre said, estimating that the Bulkley River near Smithers could reach 10-year flow levels by Wednesday or Thursday.
Flooding on the Skeena River could reach a 20-year high as early as Wednesday, it said.
A heat warning from Environment Canada remained in effect in the same area, covering inland areas of the north coast.
Several waterways in southern B.C. were also upgraded to a flood watch as the River Forecast Centre warned the Kettle and Granby rivers in the Boundary basin and the Slocan River near Crescent Valley would continue to rise through the weekend.
Flood watches remained in effect for the Lower Thompson region of southern B.C., including Cache Creek, and the Deadman and Bonaparte rivers.
A section of the Bella Coola River on the central coast was also under a flood watch, while high streamflow advisories covered much of the rest of the province.
Environment Canada meanwhile issued severe thunderstorm warnings for the Boundary and Central Okanagan regions later Tuesday.
The warning said meteorologists were tracking “dangerous thunderstorms” capable of producing heavy rain and hail that could be as big as golf balls over a stretch of Highway 33 between McCulloch and Beaverdell, east of Kelowna.
It said storm spotters had reported golf ball-sized hail near Big White Ski Resort.
The storms came after 37 heat records were set across B.C. on Monday, including in Smithers and Terrace, where the mercury hit 29.5 C, shattering a record that had stood in the Terrace area since 1925.
B.C. claimed the 10 hottest spots in Canada on Monday, with the Fraser Canyon community of Lytton topping the list at 36.5 C.
A statement from BC Hydro on Tuesday said power consumption in the province reached an all-time hourly high for May on Monday night, as people used fans and air conditioners to cool down.
Consumption hit 7,600 megawatts, and though temperatures have since cooled, the Crown utility said it expects above-average demand for the rest of the week.
The B.C. government on Tuesday also announced financial support for people affected by recent flooding in a dozen communities, including Cache Creek, West Kelowna, Grand Forks and six First Nations bands.
The Ministry of Emergency Management said disaster financial assistance is available to those affected by floods between April 27 and May 16, 2023.
It’s available to homeowners, tenants, business owners and others who were unable to obtain insurance to cover disaster-related losses, it said.
Those seeking compensation after a flooding event have 90 days to apply.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 16, 2023.