Fraser not at risk of flooding yet

Harrison watershed could cause trouble this spring

Despite its murky brown colour and swelling banks, the Fraser is not at risk of flooding in the Agassiz area, says Roger Poulton.

As the district emergency coordinator, he keeps daily tabs on the ebbs and flows of rivers, snow pack and weather forecasts. While flooding is on the minds of many locals, he says it’s not time to panic.

In fact, his rule of thumb is that people should never panic.

“People should always be prepared anyway,” he says, “for any contingency.”

As of last Friday, the Fraser was actually dropping in levels. Like other flood monitors in the Fraser Valley, Poulton watches the Fraser levels in Prince George, which are a good indicator for Agassiz. While that area was at risk earlier this spring, as of early this week the waters had receded. Poulton hopes that mild trend continues, and the snow in the mountains melts at a steady rate. The best case scenario, any spring, is that the weather stays consistently mild, allowing the river to fill to its top and drain the mountains out evenly.

The time to worry is when we have several days of searing hot temperatures, he says — something that hasn’t been forecasted yet.

“I’m just not that concerned yet,” he says, adding that spring is four weeks behind. “It’s coming off nicely right now.”

What may be at more risk than the Fraser this year is the Harrison watershed, he says, including the Miami River.

That water system comes from the Birkenhead region, which flows from Lillooet into Harrison Lake, and out through the rivers and streams. Harrison is also at a lower elevation than Agassiz.

And there is a lot of snow up in those mountains still, Poulton says.

“The floodgates at Harrison are at 13 metres,” he says, and last Friday the water level was hovering just over 11 metres.

Still, he urges people to remain calm and get familiar with their emergency plans.

“My concern always is the number of people who think that masses of help will show up at their door,” he says. As has been shown in news coverage in the many disasters around the world in the past year, it could be three days or longer before residents receive assistance. Once a state of emergency is declared, an emergency centre is set up and the emergency task force creates a plan to methodically, and safely, help those in trouble.

Here are a few things you can do now, to help get through the first few days of any emergency.

• Have a plan to care for your pets. There is no shelter set up in the Agassiz Harrison area to handle pets in a widespread emergency, and they will not be allowed to stay with you at an emergency shelter.

• Have a family meeting place, and review it often with your children and other family members.

• Learn first aid. However much you can help yourself, your family and even your neighbours, the sooner emergency personnel can deal with major injuries and emergencies.

• Learn the location of your gas and water shut off switches, floor drains, electrical panel and fire extinguisher (or purchase one).

• Start building an emergency kit. For more information on what you’ll need, visit www.getprepared.gc.ca.