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Pine Beetles, Fires, Storms Hike B.C. Flood Risk

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Recent forest fires and the mountain pine beetle infestation are amplifying flooding in the southern interior, says a B.C. hydrologist.

That, combined with an above average snowpack, warm temperatures and heavy rain has created a perfect storm of conditions for flooding, said hydrologist Don Dobson.

At the end of April dozens of homes were flooded in Kimberley, Tulameen, West Kelowna and Kelowna and hundreds remain on evacuation alert, as water levels stay high.

Dobson says reduced water absorption due to trees killed by the mountain pine beetle, as well as damage to the ground from forest fires in recent years means there's now an increased potential for flooding in the B.C. interior.

"The heat from the fire can create what is called water repellent soils. Instead of rain being absorbed into the soil, it runs off. As if it were a paved parking lot," explains Dobson.

"And where there is a significant amount of lodgepole pine, as that pine dies, it will change the hydrology and it will change the risks of more frequent high water events and possible flooding."

Dobson said there are misconceptions that clear cutting is contributing to the flooding, but he said logging isn't a significant cause.

He warns a return of warm temperatures and rain could cause creeks and rivers to overflow again and says people living nearby can expect more flooding through the spring.