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Rain, melting snow pose flooding concerns across B.C. as evacuations lift

Last Updated May 23, 2018 at 8:20 am EDT

The swollen Fraser River is seen in an aerial view in Chilliwack, B.C., on Wednesday May 16, 2018. any people forced from their homes by flooding in southern British Columbia have been allowed to return, but officials say there are still areas of concern in many parts of the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Many people forced from their homes by flooding in southern British Columbia have been allowed to return, but officials say there are still areas of concern in many parts of the province.

Evacuation orders for about 171 addresses in Grand Forks were lifted Tuesday, with the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary saying the threat of flooding had decreased.

Residents of more than 500 properties across the province remained out of their home, and another 6,500 were on evacuation alert, warned that they may need to leave at a moment’s notice.

The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen said drones were used to re-evaluate its evacuation alerts and orders. Residents would be allowed to return to their homes “as soon as the situation is appropriate,” the regional district said.

Farmers and ranchers have been hit hard by the rising waters, said Agriculture Minister Lana Popham. Cows were removed from two dairy farms on an island in the Fraser River near Surrey, she said.

“The flooding is taking a toll on farming and ranching families again,” Popham said, adding many agriculture operations were also affected by last summer’s historic wildfire season.

Temperatures have been unseasonably high across much of the province in recent weeks, melting snow faster than waterways can cope with it, said David Campbell of the River Forecast Centre.

“We, not surprisingly, have seen ongoing, dramatic, rapid snowmelt across the province over the last few weeks,” he said.

Enough snow has melted to reduce the risk for many areas that have seen significant flooding, Campbell said, but large melting snowpacks could still overwhelm the Thompson and Fraser rivers, and waterways in the Kootenay region.

Severe rainfall is also a concern, he added, because June is known to bring wet weather across the province.

“It’s difficult, really, to kind of stand down from the seasonal risk until we’re well past those weather risks,” he said.

Chris Duffy of Emergency Management BC said there are still about 300 Canadian Forces personnel and about 380 wildfire crews helping with the flood response.