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Flood threat means extended closure of city boat launches in Kamloops

McArthur Island experienced light flooding over the weekend, resulting in closure of a pathway and portions of the disc golf course
high water park playtime -WIDER-HORIZ copy-web
Pritchard resident Amber Lyon enjoys an outing to Riverside Park on June 9 with her children Ryan, 4 and Eden, 1. Lyon said she had made plans to use the shovel and pail they brought with them at the beach, but soon found out Riverside Park beach was closed to due high water.

Extended closure of city boat launches amid a cool and wet June may not be welcome news to those yearning for summer fun in the sun, but the measure is necessary as the city continues to monitor flood risk in Kamloops.

McArthur Island experienced light flooding over the weekend, resulting in closure of a pathway and portions of the disc golf course, and the city is warning of prolonged closure of boat launches, potentially extending beyond the Canada Day long weekend.

The BC River Forecast Centre has issued a flood watch for the North Thompson river basin and South Thompson tributaries. 

The city’s utility services manager, Greg Wightman, provided a virtual media update on Tuesday (June 14). He said the rivers are rising and “approaching or exceeding bankfull,” but it is mostly applicable to the “upper reaches of those two systems and not particularly right here in Kamloops.”

Wightman said the city continues to monitor the weather. The city has been watching a significant amount of rainfall in the Kootenays, which is adding water to the Shuswap River. Kamloops, however, appears to have dodged that bullet. Light rain is expected this week in the River City, which Wightman described as a “good thing.” The city does not want to see significant rainfall (30 millimetres in 24 hours).

“Anything that avoids a significant rainfall is going to be best-case scenario and worst-case scenario would be a large system that brings a heavy rainfall over a period of a day or two anywhere in the South or North Thompson valleys, too,” he said. “It doesn’t have to just be in Kamloops here, obviously.”

Wightman said the Boss Mountain Mine snow index, which helps to indicate when the North Thompson River will peak, will be reaching snow-free status in the next couple of days.

Based on that, the North Thompson could peak midway next week, Wightman said, and the hope is the South Thompson does not peak at the same time, which remains a possibility.

“A little hard to say,” Wightman said, when asked when the South Thompson could peak.

Flood risk is amplified when the two rivers peak simultaneously, as they did in 1972, leading to major flooding.

The North Thompson usually peaks in the first week of June, with the South Thompson usually peaking in the third week of the month.

“Certainly, the rain that we’re seeing through the Kootenays that is spilling into the Shuswap River is going to increase the levels there and that’s part of what’s pushed that river system to the flood watch, so a little unknown at this point,” Wightman said. “Best guess would be somewhere at the end of the month here, towards the end of June, so hopefully that comes a couple weeks after the North Thompson. But there is definitely potential for the two rivers to synchronize this year.”

Wightman said the rivers are expected to stay high for an extended period this year.

— Editor's note: A June 14 story (‘Flood threat means extended closure of city boat launches in Kamloops’) incorrectly stated: “The BC River Forecast Centre has issued a flood watch for the North and South Thompson river basins.” In fact, the BC River Forecast Centre had issued a flood watch for the North Thompson river basin and the South Thompson tributaries. The story was updated on June 21 to reflect the correction.