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Flood watch issued for parts of B.C. already dealing with wildfires

The BC River Forecast Center has issued flood watches for several parts of BC, including the northeastern Peace region, which is already dealing with wildfires.

Flood watch released Sunday For rivers and tributaries around Fort St. John, Taylor, Chetwynd, Moberly Lake, Pine Pass, Hudson Hope, and Dawson Creek.

The River Prediction Center says unusually warm weather over the past few weeks has led to heavy snowmelt, meaning the region is vulnerable to significant flooding as water levels rise.

It compares current conditions to 2011 and 2016, when floods occurred; people were forced to leave their homes, entire communities gridlocked and roads destroyed which took months to completely repair.

Environment Canada says heavy rain is expected Monday through Tuesday, with 50 to 75 mm expected in the southern Fort Nelson region, though the North Peace region, and up to 100 mm expected in the South Peace region, including Tumbler Ridge.

The agency is warning of flash flooding, ponding and possible debris flows.

A car leaning against the edge of a washed-out road as floodwater pushes it over the edge.
A white sedan jumped the side of a flooded street in Dawson Creek, B.C. 2016. The BC River Forecast Center has issued a flood warning for the city, saying the weather and water conditions are similar to what led to catastrophic flooding in the Northeast. Seven years ago in B.C. (Brett Hyde/CBC)

In addition to the Peace region, the BC River Forecast Center has issued flood watches Border, Kootenays and Columbia counties in the southeast, is Shuswap, Thompson, Bonaparte and Okanagan Counties in the southern interior and for the upper and middle Fraser River around Prince George and Quesnel.

Many thunder watches are in effect with heavy rain forecast through Tuesday by Environment Canada.

Aerial view of the highway destroyed by the flood.
It took months to repair the damage from the 2016 floods, with entire communities cut off as roads were destroyed and washed away. (BC Ministry of Transportation)

Dangers to the public

Officials say it’s important to avoid rivers and streams under flood warnings and warnings.

Swimming, fishing, boating and hiking are also discouraged near these rivers and streams.

A man drowned Friday night while trying to save a dog that had been swept away by high, fast-moving waters at West Vancouver’s Cypress Falls Park, prompting a warning to pet owners.

“If you’re near bodies of water, put your dog on a leash,” said Paul Markey, who led North Shore Rescue’s response to the call. “And if a dog does come in, absolutely do not follow the dog in there and try not to go near the water.”

Hurricanes can help or hinder wildfire fighting

The warning comes as the region is already dealing with several raging wildfires that continue to force hundreds of people from their homes.

As of Sunday evening, more than 90 wildfires were burning across the state, most of them in the Peace River region, including three wildfires that pose a threat to property.

State fire information officer Forrest Tower said there is hope that the forecasted rain could help some of those fires, such as Red Creek and Cameron River, get under control.

But the fire service is also watching for any lightning strikes that could start new fires as rainfall arrives.

“The timing, right now, is when we start getting that precipitation,” he said.

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