By Kathy Michaels – Kelowna Capital News – July 5, 2012
Now the worst storms have passed, it’s time to look at the sunny side of Kelowna’s rainy season.
Among the highlights are the novelty of a record breaking year, lessened risk of wildfire in the immediate future, a robust Okanagan Lake and a solid start to storing up water for the coming dry season.
Traditionally the wettest month of the year, Environment Canada meteorologist Doug Lundquist explained June’s showers washed away previous Kelowna records. Total rainfall measured 107 millimetres, which is more than double the average 41 mm June rainfall and beyond the 1990 record of 103 mm.
“We had extra storms,” said Lundquist. “Not everyone in the Interior got them, but we did.”
Temperatures were correspondingly lower than normal, as well, coming in at an average of 14.6 C compared to the normal 16.3 C.
That said, a corner has been turned and sunnier skies and higher temperatures are ahead.
“The heat south of the border is rebounding and heading into our area,” Lundquist said. “By early next week we should see temperatures in the mid 30s. It could be pushing the 40s in Osoyoos and Lytton.”
It’s the type of weather that usually prompts the masses to head into the forests for various forms of outdoor fun. It also usually leads to a litany of warnings, but Kevin Skrepnek, a Fire Information Officer with the Kamloops Fire Centre said things are looking pretty good at the moment.
“The fire rating changes from day to day,” he said. “Kelowna and most of the Okanagan is sitting at a low danger rating.”
Skrepnek also pointed out that when it comes to drying out the forest floor, a few hot days can be enough to spark trouble.
“Weather forecasts across the board are calling for temperatures to skyrocket,” he said. “Chances are we will find the danger rating to climb and it gets hotter.”
Fact is, history indicates that a wet lead-in to summer doesn’t necessarily herald a smoke free season.
“The caution I’d offer is we’ve seen years, such as 2003, where the fire season was bookended by floods,” he said.
“In the next 10 days, there’s not much if any precipitation, so we could be square one despite having a wet month.”
Water purveyors are a little less dire about what lies ahead, however, reporting no concerns for shortages.
One of the most vulnerable to drought is the South East Kelowna Irrigation District. Its water source is divvied up between agricultural and domestic use, with 80 per cent going to farms and 20 per cent to households.
“We have a small watershed so we’ve had problems over the years when when there’s been drought,” said Toby Pike, manager of SEKID.
“So, the water manager’s constant neurosis is running out of water, and this year I’m sleeping well.”
Pike explained the June’s rain did two things, it filled up local reservoirs and lowered demands. With all of this rain, it’s lowered our demand and it’s made sure we have plenty of supply in the future.”
Robust supply, however, shouldn’t lead to wasteful behaviour, cautioned Anna Warwick Sears of the Okanagan Basin Water Board.
“We should work toward water conservation,” she said. “There’s a lot of reason for conserving water, including of cost of treatment and delivery.”
She also pointed out that the work the board has done indicates that the weather we’ve seen this year may be a sign of what’s to come.
“The work we’ve done on climate change suggests we’re going to have more wet years and more dry years and we have to prepare for both,” she said.