—— By Michael Potestio/Castanet

The B.C. River Forecast Centre says the province is sitting at its second-lowest snowpack levels of all time, but conditions are closer to normal in the Interior.

Dave Campbell, who heads the agency, presented the latest snowpack conditions and water supply bulletin to reporters on Friday. Campbell said there has been a continued trend of low snowpack levels this year, though the numbers have come up a bit since February.

The provincial average snowpack for March 1 is 66 per cent of normal — up from 61 per cent recorded on Feb. 1. That level is tied with 2001 for the second-lowest provincial snowpack for March, trailing just 1977, when the snowpack was 53 per cent of normal.

Out of the 217 snow basins used to measure these levels, Campbell said 12 are recording all-time lows for March 1, with areas recording below 60 per cent of normal in the Upper Fraser East, South Coast, Vancouver Island and Central Coast.

“We are anticipating a decrease in the seasonal flood risk in most areas of the province,” Campbell said, given the low snowpack.

Closer to normal in Interior

Campbell said the snowpack is closer to March 1 normals in areas such as the South Thompson, Okanagan, Boundary and Northwest, with closer to seasonal flood risk predicted for those areas.

He said the March 1 snow basin for the North Thompson is sitting at 76 per cent of normal, the South Thompson is at 90 per cent of normal and the Okanagan is at 80 per cent of normal.

Campbell said the low snowpack levels around the province has caused concern of elevated drought conditions this year.

“The water that we’ve got stored up on the landscape in the snow is below normal and therefore the flow we anticipate that water availability is going to be lower as we come into the summer,” Campbell said.

Drought implications will also hinge on other factors such as how the snow melts away, the weather during the spring and summer and how much more snow is left to fall this season.

Campbell said about 80 per cent of snow accumulation for the year has fallen by March.

Fire season outlook waiting on freshet

“We continue to see seasonal weather forecasts indicating an increased chance of warm spring and into the summer and a limited signature in terms of the seasonal forecast for rainfall,” Campbell said, adding he doesn’t expect major changes in snowpack levels.

As for what extent the low snowpack could have on this year’s fire season, Campbell said those implications are beyond his expertise, but noted there is still a spring freshet season to get through that will contribute water onto the landscape and refill shallow groundwater supplies.

“There very much is a cycle that needs to take place, as we go through the spring, before we get into those areas where we’re going to see that really dry ground conditions and soil moisture, which is really more of a later spring into the summer piece,” he said.