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Spring flooding in New Brunswick expected to be minor, thanks to a mild winter | CBC News

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Thanks to one of the mildest winters on record, New Brunswick’s spring flooding is predicted to be minor, according to the director of New Brunswick’s Emergency Measures Organization.

“We are optimistic that the risks are low due to the early melt and less snow than previous years,” said Kyle Leavitt at Tuesday’s launch of River Watch 2024.

“However, we know conditions can change at any time and flooding is highly dependent on day-to-day weather. The weather is difficult to accurately predict beyond a few days and can change quickly.”

River Watch is a joint program between the Department of Environment and Local Government, EMO, the Department of Justice and Public Safety, and N.B. Power. 

Along with outside partners including Environment and Climate Change Canada and watershed groups, River Watch monitors water levels every spring.

“We have been closely watching the melting of ice and snow around water courses, particularly the St. John River basin, but other water courses can present risks and are monitored as well,” Leavitt said.

WATCH | ‘There is much less water in the snowpack this year’:

River Watch is back: Here’s how N.B.’s forecast is faring so far

A sure sign of spring in the province, staff from the Department of Environment and Local Government, and EMO will be keeping a close eye on waterways, particularly the St. John River basin. Here’s the current forecast.

River Watch ended last year after seven weeks of monitoring water levels with only minor flooding recorded.

This year the predictions are similar, with potentially less spring flooding in the Maritimes due to the smaller snowpack from the winter.

Jill Maepea, a warning preparedness meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada, said this past winter has been the warmest on record in Fredericton since recording started in 1871.

The rest of the province also saw less snow this year than normal. 

“Areas in the north saw 10 to 40 cm of snow on the ground at the end of February, and in the south, there was less than 10 cm on the ground. These amounts are very much below the normal for this time of year,” Maepea said.

Don Fox, the director of air and water sciences with the Department of Environment and Local Government, said the latest snow survey between March 4 and 6 revealed New Brunswick has roughly one-third the depth of snow normally received at this point in the year.

“In general, there is much less water in the snowpack this year compared to the same time period last year,” Fox said. 

“All this adds to less potential floods, but doesn’t mean those living by rivers and lakes are in the clear.”

There are several factors that can influence spring flooding and the Environment Department’s hydrology centre will  provide five-day forecasts and will identify any potential concerns that may surface during the spring flooding season.

Seven pillars by the riverside in a landscape photo
New Brunswick received less snow this winter than it usually does and predictions are the annual flooding will be minor and not to the levels recorded here on markers by the St. John River. (Rebekah Houter/CBC)

“During the first few weeks, the forecast may be produced every two to three days as required based on the weather and conditions of the St. John River basin,” Fox said.

Despite the smaller amount of snow and the watchful eyes on the rivers, streams and lakes, Fox said keeping up with alerts and updates is important.

“Rapid increases in temperature combined with heavy rain events can cause increased water levels and significant flooding as ice begins to break up. Ice jams can also occur, causing rapid rise in water levels and flooding,” Fox said, adding future weather plays a big part in forecasting.

Regardless of what is presumed for the springtime thaw, New Brunswickers are advised to be mindful of weather conditions and be prepared in the event of flooding. 

The Red Cross recommends a 72-hour kit with 3.7 litres, or one gallon, of water per person per day, three days of non-perishable food per person, a flashlight, phone charger with power bank, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, first-aid kit and medication as needed.

If you’re in the Fredericton area, an interactive map can show if your property is at risk. The provincial flood map is also available. 

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