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January sees Kootenay mountain snowpack levels drop to below normal

This year’s average is well below the same time last year
A B.C. government snowpack monitoring station. Photo: Province of B.C.

by John Boivin

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,Valley Voice

What a difference a year makes.

Last January, snowpack was measured at about twice normal level in locations across the West Kootenay. This year, numbers at most stations are below normal.

“Most regions of B.C. received lower than normal snow accumulation for the start of January, with snowpack percentages dropping across the province,” notes the Jan. 16 snowpack update from the River Forecast Centre. “The provincial snowpack varies between regions, with almost all areas of the province below normal for Jan. 15.”

The provincial average for the automatic recording sites is 80 per cent (dropping from 87 per cent on Jan. 1). The West Kootenay, however, remains below that, with snowpack levels recorded at 77 per cent of normal to this date.

The station at Redfish Creek near Nelson is the highest in the area, at just about 98 per cent of normal snowfall at the site, while the Duncan Dam 2 site is the lowest level, at 42 per cent. In late January 2022 the dam station recorded snowpack more than 200 per cent above the average for that time of year.

No station in the West Kootenay is recording higher-than-average snowpack.

The snowpack in the East Kootenay is a little higher, with an average of 84 per cent of normal for this time of year. The Okanagan has highest level of snowpack compared to normal in the province, with the automated stations recording 106 per cent of normal for this time of year.

By Jan. 15, on average, approximately 55 per cent of the total seasonal snow pack has accumulated.

Forecasters keep watch on snowpack to better predict the potential for spring flooding in any of the province’s watersheds. However, it’s still early in the season for prediction, and the centre notes that snowpack will continue to accumulate until May.